Snohomish Lions Club, now 90 years old, keeps service at heart
Photo courtesy Snohomish Lions Club
Lions club members stand together with students at Riverview Elementary in April this year in a group shot after club members delivered dictionaries to
students at numerous schools.
From left in back row in yellow vests: Joanne Kirkley, Sharon Burlison,
Mike Edwards, Merle Kirkley, Tawni Bullock, George Nowadnick, Charlie Canfield and Ned Carrick, who’s been a Lion since 1952.
SNOHOMISH — Before joining the Snohomish Lions Club three years ago, Mike Edwards says he was content hanging around the house.
Now club president, with newfound friends, he spends much of his free time plotting projects for the service organization, which just commemorated its 90th year in town.
The Lions have supported a dizzying array of local causes since 1929.
They’ve collected toys for needy children, supported the Boy Scouts and Sea Scouts, planted victory gardens, sponsored Easter Egg hunts and raised money to build the now-razed Hal Moe Memorial Pool as well as the downtown public restrooms.
More recently, donations from the Lions helped build the Snohomish Boys and Girls Club.
The Lions, at their heart, focus on vision and hearing needs. Last year the club funded vision tests for children and this year is conducting a survey on hearing aids among members at the Snohomish Senior Center.
For their 90th, the club will get to be the grand marshals of next month’s Kla Ha Ya Days parade.
The Lions’ motto is “We Serve,” but like similar organizations, fewer are serving as memberships are declining. But Edwards and incoming president Michael Blalock, who takes over next summer, are injecting a fresh dose of enthusiasm.
“The energy is back,” says Morrie Sachsenmaier, a past president and 32-year club member. “We call Mike ‘Mr. Organization.’ He’s been instrumental in keeping us organized.”
That’s good, because there’s a lot to stay on top of.
The Snohomish club is flush with cash from selling a house last summer built with donations, as well as about $15,000 from selling its longtime “Weenie Wagon” food trailer.
Lions Club bylaws dictate that the house profits, including interest, be spent within 20 years.
So, the club has established a new $5,000 Community Grant Fund that allocates for annual needs in accordance with Lions Club priorities: sight, hearing, education, community, hunger, the elderly, and diabetes.
Another new fund pays tuition at Camp Leo, a summer retreat for diabetic children and adults.
The Lions also continue to sponsor vision testing through local schools, and pays for glasses for low-income students.
The club purchased two hand-held eye scanners, which resemble small tablet computers, that can instantly detect vision defects, and are piloting a program that tests elementary and middle school students each fall.
But its most ambitious undertaking is the creation of a Capital Projects Fund, which will allocate money for large-scale construction in conjunction with other agencies.
“We’re going to do big things, and fund big projects,” Edwards says.
Next year the club plans to unveil its new annual fundraiser: a “croquet event” at Harvey Field the third Saturday in May.
Attendees will dress in white, with food, drinks and parasols, like a scene from “The Great Gatsby.”
“The club has a lot of new energy right now, a lot of excitement,” says member JanRose Ottaway Martin. “It makes people inspired.”
Martin joined last September; her mom Cyndy Ottaway, is a longtime Lion as was another relative.
The club’s longest-serving member, Ned Carrick, has been part of a Lions Club since he was fresh out of college in 1952. Other long-serving members include Hank Robinett and Merle Kirkley.
The club has 35 current members. Edwards would like to bring in at least five more members by around this time next year.
New initiates are typically invited to dinner by a club member, then asked to join. Dues are $70 a year.
Club members meet twice a month in Snohomish, currently at Collector’s Choice Restaurant, but Edwards says some meetings in later summer will be canceled to allow time for more volunteer work.
“You have to stay relevant by being where you’re needed, by being where people are at,” Edwards says.”You continue to do service that people value.”
For the Snohomish Lions Club, that’s a maxim that has stood the test of time.
Ninety years, to be precise. And counting.
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