In 1946, when postage stamps were just three cents each and New Jersey singer Frank Sinatra was still in his prime, the Lions Club in Cornell saw a need, sponsoring the establishment of a new service …
In 1946, when postage stamps were just three cents each and New Jersey singer Frank Sinatra was still in his prime, the Lions Club in Cornell saw a need, sponsoring the establishment of a new service organization, the Stanley Lions Club.
As the local manifestation of Lions Clubs International, the Stanley Lions that began with just 22 members recently came together to celebrate what has transpired since the club came into being back in 1946, with $290,952 given back to the local community, a figure unadjusted for inflation (see “stamp cost”) or volunteer labor donated through the years. Meeting from 5 p.m. until past eight in the new Stanley Community Center out at Chapman Park, the Stanley Lions back on a proud history, but also towards the events still to come at a celebration of its 75th anniversary.
Starting out the official program for Saturday’s anniversary celebration was a social hour from 5 p.m. to just before six, with Norm and Donella Christianson working the entryway.
On display for event goers were records and scrapbooks detailing club history and officers, along with a three panel set of wallboards by Pat Jankoski showing Stanley Lions having fun and local pride.
Following the social hour, it was on to official business, with Lion Gary Krueger giving the welcome followed with an introduction of guests, attendees coming from Holcombe, Thorp, and elsewhere around the state in attendance for Saturday’s event, alongside past international directors Connie LeCleir-Meyer and Ronald Duffe.
From the introduction of guests it was into the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Lion Christianson. After the Pledge it was into musical selections by Joe Henzl, starting with the national anthem, with five additional songs in a cappella style.
“Thank you for all that you do,” Henzl told the assembled Lions prior to completion of the a cappella entertainment, having been asked to sing at the night’s event by Lion Jerry Dirkes. From singing it was into the invocation led by Stanley Lion and minister Ken Schmidt of Our Savior’s Lutheran, who said that in looking over the Lions code of ethics he had come up with a ‘Top Ten list of reasons for service.
Following the Top 10 list and a prayer of invocation led by pastor Schmidt, it was into the food and dinner aspect of Saturday night’s gathering, with guests and club members alike enjoying mashed potatoes with gravy, steamed vegetables, coleslaw, beef cuts in sauce, charcoal chicken, and bread, but also milk and a very exquisitely decorated cake, with blue and gold colors to accent the flavor.
While the dinner was still going on and in light of the fact that some attendees had “a long drive home” ahead, Lion Krueger opened the history presentation from 52-year member and local Club historian David Jankoski, followed in turn with remarks and special awards from Ronald Duffe as a past international director of the Lions and guest speaker for the night. So what have the Lions done or been responsible for locally over the years? Jankoski had a short rundown.
In 1947, the Stanley Lions had taken on the establishment of a football field at Chapman Park, the previous field having been a “poorly lit” area known as the old fairgrounds, now located south of Maple Street and west of the Historical Society building. Following upon this project, the Lions had been instrumental in helping make the Maves Pavillion at Chapman Park a reality in 1953, along with a deer park in 1956. The Club had also helped in rolling out the polio vaccine.
“…and that was the beginning of the eradication of polio,” Jankoski said of an immunization program the Stanley Lions had done along with the Boyd Lions in 1963, in which local residents were provided with the Sabin vaccine on sugar cubes for a requested donation of 25 cents, with no one turned away for inability to pay. To those old enough to remember polio, it could be personal, as Jankoski shared that while in first grade he had a classmate who was stricken with the dreaded virus, resulting in iron lungs and paralysis.
“He was never the same after that,” Jankoski shared on his classmate. The Lions sponsorship of Sponsoring local vaccination efforts to change this sad reality wasn’t the only thing the Stanley Lions had accomplished though, he shared.
In 1972, a lazy eye screening program had begun to help those with poor vision, and the Club had also run an eyeglass program since 1960, sending eyeglasses to the Wisconsin Lions Foundation in Rosholt. They are then brought to the Stanley Correctional Institution where they are sorted and the strength of the lens is determined, then being available for worldwide distribution. Those incarcerated at SCI also make mittens and caps, Jankoski shared. Whereas in the past Wiscosnin Lions sent these eyeglass donations to Central America, today the eyeglasses are sent to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, due to unstable governments further south. There was more, as the Lions are also involved with providing scholarships to local students.
The Lions first scholarship was awarded in 1965, and today there are five scholarships available through the Stanley Lions organization for students. Over the years, the Lions had contributed $51,800 to the scholarship program, along with countless hours of volunteer labor for transport of patients from Our Lady of Victory Hospital to Eau Claire along with giving stranded patients a ride home. The Stanley Lions Club had also contributed to establishing the mushroom in the kiddie pool at Stanley-Boyd, he said, with $91,000 poured into Chapman Park and $29,000 to the City of Stanley over the years. The group had also been instrumental in establishing an endowed Community Fund that continues to this day, Jankoski shared. Success wasn’t just tied to the Lions, as community support played an important role as well.
“While the Lions may have been the catalyst…it is the community support of those efforts which have allowed the programs to flourish,” Jankoski shared at Saturday’s gathering.
Shifting into the remarks by past international director Ronald Duffe, a look back at 1946 was offered, with famous names born that year including Diane Keaton, Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone. That wasn’t all that happened after World War II.
“There was no vice president,” Duffe shared of challenges on the national scene after Harry Truman took over from President Franklin Roosevelt, who had died the spring of 1945. Through the years since its founding way back in 1946, the Stanley Lions had contributed to numerous community projects and also those outside, a fact to be grateful for. Before long it was time to wind down the night’s festivities, with special awards given out to several Lions including Dave Jankoski, Gary Krueger, Jerry Dirkes, Norm Christianson, and Dave Winkler. Final remarks were made by Lion Dirkes, ending the night’s celebration. But whereas the Stanley Lions have had an illustrious history, continuing the tradition into the future requires both the constant recruitment of and active participation in the club by new members. So what’s involved in becoming a Stanley Lion member? For that, we turn to the Facebook account at ‘Lions Clubs International’ to learn how the Lions have entered and continue to thrive into the 21st Century.
“Where there’s a need, there’s a Lion,” the worldwide group’s Facebook page announces on the banner. With 572,000 followers and a near equal number of likes, Lions Club International isn’t just for yesterday or today-its for tomorrow also. And just as the club helped in the eradication of polio (vaccination for which was controversial in its start), today the Club is contributing to the mitigation if not stamping out of COVID-19, as flu viruses morph too quickly to be wholly eradicated through vaccines. As part of its mitigation efforts, the Leo Club of Dhaka Shamoli recently volunteering to help administer Covid-19 vaccination in their local area.
“We are united in our global mission of service,” a post from Friday September 17 on the group’s page shares. “Together, we can achieve our vision to be the global leader in humanitarian service. “We are 1.4 million Lions with a shared story that connects us all: service,” a post on the Facebook page reads. With that service beginning on the local level before extending worldwide, becoming a member of your local Lions Club is a way to make a lasting impact in the world, along with sharing camaraderie.
Local in nature but global in its ultimate reach, here’s to another 75 years for the Stanley Lions!