From building to delivering groceries to providing eyeglasses, the Polo Lions Club has been serving its community for almost seven decades.
This year marks a significant milestone for the Polo organization and all other Lions Clubs - it’s the 100th anniversary of the beginning of Lions Clubs International, an international, secular, non-political service organization founded by Melvin Jones in Chicago on June 7, 1917.
As of April 2015, it had over 46,000 local clubs and more than 1.4 million members in more than 200 countries around the world.
The Polo club was formed in 1948 with 20 charter members and Bob Hedrick as its first president. Today the membership stand at 60.
Throughout the years the mission has never changed — in keeping with the international motto of “We Serve,” it’s always been meeting the needs of the community.
Past president Tom Suits said the theme of this year’s Town & Country Days Parade float summed it up — “Where there’s a need there’s a Lion.”
To mark the organization’s centennial, president John Deuth said the local Lions built a new handicapped accessible shelter house behind the Polo Public Library.
That project is just one more in a long list of what the club has undertaken for its community.
In fact, the service orientation of the club is what attracted both Suits and Deuth.
“I get a sense of personal satisfaction from helping others,” Suits said.
Deuth agreed. “It’s a way of giving back,” he said.
Vision has long been the main project of the international organization, whose motto is “We Serve.”.
Suits said Helen Keller spoke to the Lions Club International convention in 1925 and challenged members to become “knights for the blind.”
“Since then vision has been our focus,” he said.
The club provides eyeglasses and eye exams for local persons who cannot afford them.
Recently Suits said members bought a special iPad for a young man in Polo who is vision-impaired.
The device came with a magnifier and also with audio.
Deuth said the club sponsors summer baseball and softball teams and is the longest continuing sponsor of its local Cub Scout Pack.
Building projects have included park shelters, the pool bath house, three Habitat for Humanity houses, scoreboards, a park bathroom, and the high school football field lights and announcer’s box.
They also provide high school scholarships, Christmas baskets, and donate to the local food pantry, senior center, and Special Olympics.
For many years they made week grocery deliveries to shut-ins.
Main fundraisers are the Farm Toy Show, food booth at the Hazelhurst Consignment Sales, rose sales, wreath sales, broom sales, and a pancake breakfast.
Fellowship and camaraderie are two of the things he enjoys most about the club, Suits said.
He joined in 1977 after Larry Loomis invited him, and has maintained perfect attendance.
His father-in-law Austin Stahler was a charter member.
“We have great programs,” Suits said.
Deuth joined in 1976 after being invited by Mike Fager.
“When I started going to the meetings there were so many people I admired,” he said. “And we had a lot of fun.”
Polo Lions Club are held on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m.
To join the Polo Lions Club email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact any member.