Carnival is next week and there’s a lot of work to do to see that it all comes together for the town of Rolla and the surrounding communities.
The prime rib was out of the oven, rested and ready for slicing. Plates of fruit pie slices were rushed out of the kitchen and placed on long tables in the meeting hall of the Lions Den. It’s Lions Club officer installation night and the place was filling up fast. After all, Carnival is next week and there’s a lot of work to do to see that it all comes together for the town of Rolla and the surrounding communities.
The organization exists to serve the community. It says so, right on the back of their printed raffle cards that will enable some lucky winner to take home a 2017 Jeep Wrangler, the last night of Carnival. This month also just happens to be a milestone of 100 years that Lions Clubs all over Missouri have been serving their communities.
Through the inspiration of a man named Melvin Jones, the Lions Club has grown into the world’s largest service club organization with over 1.4 million members. Locally in Missouri, members from different clubs pull together to provide collectively when needed. Clubs provided disaster relief grants to the towns of Perryville and Oak Grove that were hit by tornadoes. Closer to home, they recently announced a matching fund grant, enabling the construction of an ADA Accessible therapy swimming pool at Camp Brim Shire near St. James, with a wheel chair ramp leading directly into the pool.
Charles “Bud” Dean has been a long-time member of the club here in Rolla. Back in the mid-70’s, Ed Sachs thought Bud would make a good member, so he sponsored him, which is like a recommendation, got in the club and has served ever since.
“I got in because you can make a lot of great friends, meet a lot of people and help the community,” he said.
He added it wasn’t really a social club, though it certainly appeared social as evidenced by the loud din of conversations going on before the dinner and subsequent installation. This club has 148 members. He stressed the many projects a member could tackle and it was wide in its reach and varied enough to fit the needs of Rolla.
“We operate through a committee system,” he said. “We’ve got a hearing committee, a sight committee, a committee for the park, the Carnival committee . . .”
The list was extensive. They provide eyeglasses for over 100 people annually and offer hearing aid assistance, give scholarships, focus on special needs events for those that are physically or mentally challenged, hold an Easter egg hunt and most notably to the families in Rolla, own and operate a 172 acre park that has almost too many amenities to count. They also constructed a regional fire training facility, funded projects for the Rolla High School football field and even donated the land for Phelps County Regional Medical Center. They rent the Lions Den for weddings and have a liquor license for after wedding reception celebrations.
“If you’re a service club, you need to look at the community, evaluate the needs and then provide them,” said Dean. “If you do that, people will want to support your club.”
Dean credits the club’s success to their forefather’s ability to have a vision and to execute on that vision; but also to a little luck. Land was for sale at just the right time for the right price.
“Back in the 50’s, this was a farm,” he said. “It was 145 acres and the barn was right over there,” he said, nodding and pointing out the direction.
Dean is the elected club’s treasurer and his past working career as the owner of an H and R Block franchise and business entreprenuer has served him well in the role.
Greg Fuller has been a Lion for 21 years and is a past-president of the club, having chaired many committees. He is now the eye-sight chairman.
“I enjoy the friends here and the working relationship I have with them—you see them out in the community and some of them are members of other organizations,” he said. “They’re just a great bunch of guys that do a lot of hard work.”
He stumbled into Lions Club membership (which is based on a current member’s recommendation) while building ballfields at the north-end of the park.
“Ellsworth Adams was talking to me and I said, ‘I’d sure like to have one of those hats’,” he explained.
“He said, ‘I can probably fix you up.’ That was the last thing I heard for two or three months. He invites me out to lunch and of course the other steps had already been taken, so I was accepted into the club.”
Matthew Williams just completed 20 years with the club and he’s a past-president as well.
“I essentially grew up out here, because my dad was a member for 40 years,” he said. “There’s always such a great group of guys that are out there, always willing to help. We volunteer—we don’t keep one dime of what we raise—every cent goes back into the community. Everybody gets along well and we all do our part to keep the organization running to raise funds.
He offered advice to those that may be coming back to the Rolla community or just moving into town from other parts of the country.
“If you’re going to live in this community, do something to make it better,” he said.
Sounds like a win-win for a prospective member and the community.
The 82nd Annual Rolla Lions Club Carnival is Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, June 30 and July 1,3 and 4. Visitors to Lions Club Park can expect fun carnival rides, a midway with food and drinks and two fireworks shows on July 1 and July 4 at 11 p.m. The drawing for the Jeep Wrangler, provided by the Rolla Lions Club from Al West Chrysler will be July 4 at midnight.