If membership doesn’t increase, December 11 may mark the end of McCreary County Lions Club.
By Eugenia Jones
The thirteen remaining members of the McCreary County Lions Club-a local branch of the international service organization that does more community work in more places than any other service club-may be forced to dissolve the local chapter if new members do not join by their next meeting on December 11.
Representatives of the McCreary County Lions Club state the local organization may fold due to a lack of members willing and able to do service projects throughout the community. Members and officers of the club are making a final plea for new members in order to head off the dissolution. The local club narrowly avoided dissolution several years ago by slightly bolstering their membership; however, membership has once again stagnated. Over the years, membership has dwindled for various reasons including the passing of elder members, members moving away to new locations, and “burn out” with the same members volunteering repeatedly for projects because there are not enough members to share the load.
The local club was established in 1946, and early on, was extremely active in the community. During its seventy-two years of local existence, the McCreary County Lions Club has included a wide array of members who resided in McCreary County as well as members who lived outside of the county but worked locally at federal agencies such as Job Corps and U. S. Forest Service.
Former President of the club, Wendy Allen, urged people who live and or work in McCreary County to join and save the Lions.
“It’s a great organization,” Allen exclaimed. “I remember going to meetings with my dad when I was a little girl. I wanted to join then because it was such fun. We want and need people to join and serve the community. Members don’t have to attend all the meetings as long as they can participate and help.”
The Lions Club has served McCreary County in many ways. Ongoing service projects include eyesight programs (including help with the provision of eyeglasses and an eye screening at the Early Childhood Palooza in March), food drives for the Christian Care Center, trick or treat candy for children during the Pumpkin Train event, and distribution of gifts and dinners for families in need at Christmas. The Lions Club is also active in supporting the McCreary County School District’s backpack program.
In the past, according to long-time member George “Buddy” Wilson, the Lions Club helped obtain a seeing-eye dog for a local man and built the Lions Club Pavilion and playground area at the former McCreary County Park (now McCreary Center of Somerset Community College.)
“In the good, old days, it wasn’t unusual for thirty to forty members to show up to volunteer for community projects,” Wilson remarked. “We also had good turnouts for club cookouts. Now, we are lucky to have five or six.”
Since the local Lions Club is dependent on fundraisers to support community projects, the current lack of membership is making it more difficult to do fundraisers and to serve the community. Several fundraisers from the past, such as the annual Pancake Breakfast, Candy Day, and Lions Club Circus, are no longer feasible because of the lack of volunteers.
Current McCreary County Lions Club President, Roger Branscum, emphasized the importance of the club, not only to the community, but to the members and their own families.
“We’d really love to have anyone join-especially those who are retired and have some extra time or those with families who would like to spend quality time with their children by involving them in food drives, coat drives, and other projects designed to give back to the community,” Branscum encouraged. “I hope veterans will consider joining the Lions Club, too. I know we aren’t a military organization, but we are all about service. For veterans, this is just another way to serve their community at the local level.”
Since the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs have disappeared from McCreary County, the Lions Club is the only open, non-military, internationally recognized community service club/organization still in existence locally. Those interested in joining and serving the community through the Lions club can contact Buddy Wilson, Roger Branscum, or Wendy Allen to apply. There is a $43.00 annual membership fee, and the club meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:00 p.m. in the upstairs community room of the McCreary County Public Library. The organization invites anyone interested in joining or learning more about the club to attend the December 11 meeting.