Chances are if you think about Lions Club International, the first thing which comes to mind is their philanthropic use of discarded eyeglasses. Nearly every optometrist’s office has a small container in which used, but useful eyeglasses can be donated for those who cannot afford to buy new ones. Additionally, when the need is known the club will purchase new eyeglasses for someone who cannot purchase them.
However, no matter what good things are done by the organization in eye care, the members contribute to their individual communities in many more ways.
This particular club began with an idea, as most do. Clarence Boger was Superintendent of the Ross Township School. Because of his position, he knew that there were families in the area who could use some assistance, but were reluctant to ask for help.
On this basis, knowing that the Lions Club did so much for those in need of eyeglasses, he called together a group of businessmen in the area to discuss forming a club in Jamestown.
At first, he received some resistance, because the old phrase “we tried it before and it did not work” was heard, but he was determined to help the residents. He called another meeting and then invited a representative from Lions International to attend and explain the challenges as well as the rewards which go with organizing such a club.
That group of twenty-four men was ready for the challenge! First, they needed to find a place where they could meet on a regular basis. Clay Mauck owned a restaurant in town with a room on the second floor which could be used at no charge. The drawback was that the room needed considerable work before it could be occupied by the club.
The members were each asked to donate $100 for the project. In 1945, that was a large sum. The Farmers and Merchants Bank offered to loan the money to anyone who would in turn put the funds toward the restoration. Members were so dedicated to the project that the necessary money was made available, the loans quickly re-paid and the club was up and running.
Dues were set at $18 per member and the official charter arrived April 12, 1945 with the names of twenty-seven charger members.
Soon an arrangement with the Jamestown Chapter of Eastern Star was made so the ladies would prepare and serve dinner prior to the meetings. The renovation had included a restaurant-style kitchen in the lodge meeting rooms. After dinner and the meeting, sometimes checkers and other games were enjoyed, and now and then one of the members would entertain with selections on the piano.
The first major project undertaken was a Fall Carnival. That first year there was a parade complete with bands, floats and spectators standing in the rain to watch. In spite of the rain, several gallons of cider were sold and the next day Doc. Haines stood at the traffic light downtown where he sold another 52 gallons. Total profit from the event was a hefty $650.
The club members continued to plan future activities which would provide revenue to help more people. Boy and Girl Scout troops were sponsored by the club. Donations to Little League, Special Olympics, the School for Hearing Impaired and a camp for handicapped children were made.
The Fall Festival continued year after year with the addition of a raffle. The first year the prize was a Western pony equipped with saddle and bridle; in later years a new car was the first prize with a variety of other items as additional prizes.
Other projects which benefited the community included lighting for a baseball field at the school. The club paid for 400 doses of Sabin Polio vaccine, donated to the Jamestown Fire Department, bought band uniforms and much more.
In 1967 a thirty-foot house trailer was remodeled into a modern kitchen on wheels. It was called “The Chow Lion”.
The Fall Festival was an event anticipated by residents throughout Greene County, and in 1982, the club decided that the event should be listed with similar events throughout Ohio and so the “Bean Festival” was officially instituted as a three day weekend.
From time to time the club sponsored dinner theater presentations in the high school gym. These were well attended with the members of the club providing the meal and all the backdrops and props and sometimes even the performers.
Another gift to the community was a dinner offered for all senior citizens in the area. The meal was free and entertainment delightful. The club also provided funding for the Senior Citizens Center.
For a number of years, the club was “men only” with the ladies who worked with them being known as “lioness”. In 1991, the men decided to invite the ladies as full member as well.
The Jamestown Lions Club has been providing assistance to residents for more than 70 years. A poem, author unknown, titled Values of Life expresses well the club motto “We Serve”. “Don’t count as possessions your silver and gold for tomorrow you leave them behind, and all that is yours to have and to hold is the service you’ve given mankind.”
Joan Baxter is a county resident and longtime historical columnist.