WHITING — Two local Lions recently received the highest honor that can be bestowed by the Indiana Lions Foundation.
Norb Dudzik and Michele Rohrman, both lifelong residents of the Whiting-Robertsdale area, have made significant contributions to the Whiting Lions since joining the service organization.
Rohrman, 59, has been a Lion for 13 years and serves as the club's membership director.
A nurse practitioner by trade, she chaired the club's Special Children's Christmas Party for five years and continues to manage Special Dances for Special People.
Those are open and free to all persons with special needs and are held monthly from September through May at Scott Middle School in Hammond.
She said the dances not only benefit those with special needs but also allow parents of special needs children, of which she is one, a networking opportunity.
Rohrman said she was surprised and humbled when presented with the W.P. Woods Award, which was named after the former Evansville resident who was the first president of Lions Club International.
"I didn't feel like I really deserved it," Rohrman said. "Because I feel like I get more out of it than I give."
Rohrman said she was instrumental in obtaining a defibrillator for the Whiting Police Department and that being a Lion gives a person the ability to help many others through service projects.
"If you have an idea, you can run with it with the Lions," she said. "Because they'll help you make it happen."
Dudzik, 74, has been a Lion for just four years but was found worthy of the prestigious award largely because of his efforts in running six Cruise Nights a year in downtown Whiting.
An event coordinator for the city of Whiting, Dudzik actually began hosting the Cruise Nights 13 years ago when they were still associated with the Whiting-Robertsdale Chamber of Commerce.
He brought the Lions Club in four years ago as a sponsor of the Cruise Nights and it now benefits from the 50/50 raffle proceeds from the events that Dudzik said typically bring about 150 classic cars to the city when the weather cooperates.
Dudzik said he was shocked and became choked up when presented with the award during one of the Cruise Nights.
"I did not know anything about this," he said. "These other people have been there longer than I have, and then I get this."
Dudzik also has helped work the club's largest annual fundraiser, its pancake breakfast, as well as the Battle of 119th Street event at which the Whiting and Clark high school football teams are treated to a barbecue dinner.
The winner of the annual matchup receives a $750 scholarship from the Lions for a graduating senior.
"It's a good organization, very good organization, but we do need a lot of young people to come out there and really get into this," Dudzik said.
Andy Dybel, treasurer for the Whiting Lions, said the Whiting club was founded in 1929. That was just 12 years after the founding of the Lions Club itself, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year.
"Internationally, it's grown into the largest service organization in the world," Dybel said.
He said Indiana alone has 410 Lions Clubs and 11,000 members and that 28 members, mostly Whiting and Robertsdale residents, make up the Whiting Lions.
Members must be at least 18 to join the group that meets on the first and third Thursdays of each month at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Whiting.
Dybel said one project the club has taken on is the upkeep of the Forsythe Park Veterans Memorial at which annual Veterans Day ceremonies are held and that Lions Club International is focused on helping the blind and preventing blindness.
He said the Whiting Lions provide eyeglasses and eye exams for disadvantaged children in the Whiting-Robertsdale area.
Those familiar with downtown Whiting may have seen what looks like a mailbox near 119th Street and Center Court at which old eyeglasses can be donated.
"We send them to the prison in Westville where they get cleaned, repaired and measured, and then they get packaged up," Dybel said.
He said a group of Lions from the district in which the Whiting Lions belong makes an annual two-week mission to Mexico in February to fit glasses on individuals in need for free.