LOWELL | For 75 years, the Lowell Lions Club has been quietly doing good works to benefit the community.
Recently, though, Lions members roared a bit to acknowledge the 75 years of accomplishments that have helped to guide the direction of the greater Lowell area.
Lowell Lion John Piper said he's proud to belong to a growing organization that has given more than $2 million back to the community over its 75 years. He joined five years ago after moving to Lowell.
"It is deeply woven into the fabric of this community. ... Plus, it's a great time. It's camaraderie, excitement, electricity," Piper said.
Piper said building membership is an ongoing project. Lions Clubs International took a pro-active stance toward maintaining membership that has helped, said Mel Goldman, Lowell Lions Club treasurer.
"Knowing there was a decline in Lions all over the country, Lions International has allowed us to openly solicit members. That was an international policy change. ... We know there's attrition," Goldman said.
"People are asked to join after a member has offered them up to the club," board member Paul Palmer said. When he was president several years ago, he took steps to increase membership, one reason he was recently honored with the Melvin Jones Award, the highest bestowed by the Lions Club International Foundation.
The history of the Lowell Lions is intertwined with that of the community.
Ron Wietbrock, a 43-year member, hearkened back to the group's early days when the Lions borrowed $15,000 to establish the town's first ambulance.
He recalled, too, when the Lions paid for the high school football field. Many decisions to give have moved the community forward, he said.
Goldman, who has been known to don the Lowell Lion costume for the Lowell Labor Day Parade, said hundreds of thousands of eyeglasses have been collected locally and sent to Indiana University for reuse and Lowell Public Library patrons in need have benefited from the large print machine purchased by the Lions. The large-print book collection is added to annually, he said.
School children are given free eye exams through the Lowell Lions and a partnership has been developed with Moses Eye Care to provide eyeglasses to needy children, Goldman said.
The Lowell High School band has received uniforms, a trailer and more over the years, Wietbrock said.
Alice Dahl, the Cedar Creek Township trustee, said the Lions have done countless good works and can always be counted on to help.
"They're always real accommodating," she said. She recently asked if they could build a ramp for an older woman in need who had come to the trustee's office. They did.
"Every year, they give Christmas trees for our (poor relief) clients. ... You couldn't ask for a greater bunch of guys. ... They're mellow, and they get the job done," she said.
The club steadily has been adding new members to its roster with about 45 members expected by year's end.