Montevideo Lions Club celebrates 75 years

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

The Montevideo Lions Club held a celebration last week in honor of their 75th year of service in the community. Lions Club International began in 1917 when a businessman from Chicago named Melvin Jones turned his idea into a reality. The club is the largest service organization in the world with 1.4 million members in over 200 countries and geographic regions. Locally, the Montevideo club signed its charter on April 1, 1946, with 65 members. One of their main objectives to start was to eradicate blindness, and the organization was asked to become knights of the blind by Hellen Keller.

There are currently 36 members of the Montevideo Lions Club, with three new members having been inducted in the last year. The Lions not only raise funds for local needs but state and international as well through such events as pancake breakfasts, raffles, selling malts at the fair, and more. “The money earned in our fundraising - 100% of it goes to community needs state foundations of Lions and to Lions International,” says Lions Club member Merrie Bertrand. “None of it is used for anything else. In Montevideo, we have funded high school scholarships, the band, improvements to the high school swimming pool, playground equipment at the elementary school, fairgrounds and we fund city scholarships to the swimming pool in the summer.” The Lions Club also works with the school to find children who need glasses and cannot afford them, as well as making donations to end hunger locally to organizations like the Food Shelf, Prairie Five Nutrition, and the Bring It Home Backpack program for the school district. 

Additional local donations include supporting the Chippewa Valley Youth Club, and the Kidsight eye screening for the two preschool site clinics each year. The Lions Club is also responsible for the Christmas lights display housed at Smith Park each holiday season. The local club also cleans up ditches around the area. “We recently added Roary the Lion to our outreach program so this year on June 14th he will be at Art’s Dairy Freeze at 7 p.m., and we’ll be giving away free baby cones and will have some information about how we support raising funds for the Children’s Cancer Foundation, which is one of the Minnesota Lion’s newest projects,” Bertrand says. 

At the State Level, the Montevideo Lions along with all Minnesota clubs donate heavily to the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank. They also support the Hearing Foundation, the Diabetes Foundation, and LCIF, which is a foundation that provides funds in times of disaster such as the funds provided to Montevideo during the flood. “Within two days of the flood there was $10,000 gifted to Montevideo to help the victims,” says Bertrand. LCIF also provides funds for community projects that local Lions Clubs could not do on their own such as the two new playgrounds installed in Clara City in the last year. “Half of the money is raised by the local club and the other half is given as a grant by LCIF,” Bertrand explains.

Membership in the Lions Club doesn’t require any special certifications or a lot of time commitment, Bertrand says. Any person 18 or older can become a Lions Club Member, and Bertrand says their current membership ranges in all ages from 28 to 80. “To be a part of the Lions Club you need to have an open heart and a willingness to serve others,” she said. The group meets twice monthly at noon at The Rivers Family Restaurant, though Bertrand added that the club is working towards organizing a project for each month which may mean skipping one of the two monthly meetings in place of working on a project. Members can choose to attend meetings or be on a list for projects. “We’re looking in the future to be more flexible,” Bertrand says. 

There are also benefits to becoming a member. Bertrand says, “For people who are willing to learn the leadership position there are lots of great programs they can attend to learn about being a leader - which is not just helpful in the Lions, but I feel is extremely helpful in furthering your own business or your occupation. It’s great exposure to the community and a wonderful way to meet new, like-minded, friends.”

The Montevideo Lions Club is hoping to gain another six to ten new members soon who are interested in helping improve the lives of those in the community who have less. “Many hands makes the work light. One small club makes the world of difference,” says Bertrand.

Those interested in joining need only to call one of the members to discuss joining and attend an upcoming meeting. Those members include Merrie Bertrand 320-226-3823, Kellie Knudson 320-226-4156, incoming President Kyle TeBeest 320-226-6625, or current President Steve Gages 320-262-4493.