Established on April 14, 1946, the Milford Lions Club is celebrating its 71st anniversary this year, coinciding with the 100th anniversary celebration of Lions Club International. In honor of the club anniversary, a display of the club’s history was open to the public at the Milford Public Library the week of April 3 through 6.
“It was actually difficult to decide which of the many photos and memorabilia we had to put in the display,” Bob Voshell, Club Historian, said. “There were just so many. Our organization has done so much good in this community and we are proud to have been here for 75 years.”
The Milford Lions Club began when the Seaford-Laurel Lions Club sponsored the group in 1946. According to minutes on display at the library, Howard Finniss, Dean Kimmel, Price Webb, J.G. Butler and Garrett Grier were the first five members of the club, the only ones to attend the organizational meeting. At the next meeting held on April 22, 20 people attended and the club received 24 paid memberships, indicating that the club would grow rapidly. Today, there are 64 members, although those numbers have been higher in the past.
“Like all volunteer organizations, it is difficult to find volunteers, everyone is busy,” Clyde Bragg, Secretary, said. “We have been fortunate, though, to have a great group of people who have provided many services to our community. In fact, we have never had a president who has had to serve more than their one year service. Someone has always stepped up and taken the lead.”
In 1946, there were other service organizations in Milford. When the Lions Club began, the largest service organization was Carlisle Fire Company, but the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs were also very active. Mr. Voshell said that many veterans returning from the war felt a need to serve the community, so many community organizations, including the Lions Club, saw a surge in membership.
“We continue to encourage veterans to join our organization because we know they are service-oriented,” Mr. Voshell said. “In fact, we will waive the registration fee for veterans who wish to join.”
Mr. Voshell pointed out that times have changed over the years. When he joined the group in the 1950s, everyone wore suit and ties to the meetings. There were strict attendance rules as well so that if a member missed three meetings, their membership was revoked. Although the rules and attire are more relaxed than they were 50 years ago, the organization still has a strong sense of serving the community.
One of the items on display at the exhibit is a letter written to City Council and signed by David Clements, Jr. as president of the Lions Club requesting that Council consider installing public toilets in the downtown area. Although the letter is not dated, Mr. Clements served as president in 1951-1952, indicating that as far back as the 1950s, the need existed. In the 1970s, the club donated a Hurst tool to the Carlisle Fire Company. Just 30 minutes after the donation was made, the fire company used the tool to save a woman and child who were in an accident on Route 14.
As part of the Lions Club International, Milford Lions Club has a mission to serve the community, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding through the Lions Club. The Milford organization performs vision screenings at local elementary schools. Using a specialized camera, Lions Club members identify problems in vision and refer them to professionals.
“Recently, a mother came to me and thanked me for saving her daughter’s eyesight,” Mr. Bragg, who chairs the Sight Screening Committee, said. “We conducted a screening and found a problem with her daughter’s eyesight. She was later diagnosed with juvenile arthritis and the doctor told her mother that if it had not been caught so soon, her daughter would have lost her vision.”
One of the biggest fund raisers conducted by the Milford Lions is their annual car raffle. Mr. Bragg said that he was approached by Ray Westrod, another member, about purchasing a car and raffling it to earn money. Mr. Westrod took out a balloon loan for the car and they set a goal to raise $5,000 for the raffle.
“One week before the raffle, we had not raised enough to pay for the car,” Mr. Bragg said. “I don’t know what happened, but that week, the money poured in. By the time the car was raffled, we had raised $12,000.” Mr. Bragg said that other fund raisers that keep the club operating include the phone book an the spaghetti dinner. He explained that the sauce recipe was created by Bill Eisenbrey and that the secret to the sauce is held by the club. The salad dressing used each year was created by Lillian Burris and is also a tightly held secret.
The Lions Club collects used eyeglasses from community members that are then sent away to be cleaned and repaired before being sent to third world countries. In addition, Lions Club members are often the first to respond during a disaster. Mr. Bragg said that district governors with the club are able to receive a $10,000 check overnight from the national organization to be used to help those affected by disaster.
“None of the money raised can be used to support club activities,” Mr. Voshell said. “For any club expenses, like postage or recognitions, we use our membership fees. All money raised through fund raisers is used to support the community. We are also fortunate enough to have the Reed Fund that we can use to support worthwhile charitable organizations in the area.” The Reed Fund was created from a bequeath from Eunice Reed to the Milford Lions Club. The club placed the funds in an investment account and interest earned on the principal is used to support area organizations as a grant fund. Mr. Bragg said that the Reed Fund has allowed the club to provide up to $60,000 in funding to area non-profits.
Anyone who wishes to join the Milford Lions Club can contact any current member for more information. Member phone numbers are listed in the front of the local Milford Lions Club phone book delivered to residents each year or can be reached through the club website at http://www.milfordlions22d.com.
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