It was good news for me to learn that the Woodstock Lions Club will be hosting a celebration to commemorate their 60 years as a vital service organization in Woodstock. You are all invited to the reception at Woodstock Public Library on Saturday, October 23, 2-4 p.m. With the sponsorship of the Canton Lions Club, the club’s charter was granted on October 24, 1961, and the first membership roll listed 50 charter members, a hefty percentage of Woodstock’s total population of 726 at the time. Names on the membership list represented many professions and life styles. There was a banker, a florist, a television repairman, clergymen, Lockheed and Western Electric workers. Farmers, a funeral director, department store owners, and a druggist were listed. Workers and owners in grocery stores, service stations, barber shops, the chicken industry, the lumber business, and nursery and greenhouses were suddenly Lions. There were educators, newspaper workers, dealers in used car parts, State employees, postal workers, plumbers, an electrician, an architect and a sewing machine repairman. This variety became evident as they entered into all kinds of community projects and worked together in achieving goals related to the many needs in the area.

As a local Lions Club, they were, and are, a part of the worldwide Lions International with a focus on vision care. The Georgia Lions Camp for the Blind near Waycross and the Georgia Lighthouse Foundation came to be very special programs to the club. The Camp hosts visually impaired children and adults, and Woodstock Lions have often worked on-site at the summer camp. The Lighthouse provides hearing and vision services, and operates one of the largest eyeglass recycling centers in the nation. Bring your discarded eyeglasses to the celebration to be a part of this important program! They host vision screenings when possible, and will also include that in the activities of their celebration.

Woodstock Lions often work with neighboring Lions Clubs, not only in fundraising events, but also in charitable projects. Their spirit of volunteerism has taken them down many paths not directly connected to visual needs. Early recipients of their benevolence included the newly formed South Cherokee Recreation Association in 1963 and the Woodstock Public Library in 1964, both of which are still operating successfully today. In the 1960s they purchased and installed lights and poles for youth ball fields. They purchased and hung Christmas lights on Woodstock’s Main Street where there was no traffic light, and utility poles dotted the landscape. And as Woodstock welcomed the arrival of a new doctor in town and the construction of a medical clinic, Woodstock Lions purchased furnishings for the waiting room.

As times have changed, so has the needs in the community. In these pandemic times, club members, often with other volunteers, have been actively involved with providing food through various food pantries in the area. They have collected warm coats for MUST Ministries, socks and backpack items for homeless veterans, and household items for Cherokee Family Violence Center. They have been involved with school projects including Teacher Appreciation Day and with scholarships. All this while continuing to make contributions to regular Lions projects.

As with any charitable organization, fundraising is a necessity. A look through their records shows sales of fruit cakes, light bulbs, brooms and mops, pecans, chicken dinners, pancake breakfasts, fish fries, spaghetti dinners, and concessions. You may have seen Lions in their traditional vests at the door of retail stores collecting donations on White Cane Day. My favorite Woodstock Lions trademark is their flag program. For a fee, the Club agrees to display American flags at businesses during daylight hours on specific national holidays. It is a win-win situation. It provides businesses with an easy method of showing their patriotism while assisting Lions in funding. I am reminded of that fateful September 11, 2001, when flag customers began to request that their flags be mounted, and Woodstock Lions responded. At a time when many of us felt helpless, this action provided visible evidence of the patriotism we all felt, and exhibited a spirit of unity in the community. A sad footnote. Within a few short days, eight of the flags were stolen. What kind of patriotism is that! The club was in the midst of the celebration of its 40th anniversary at the time, but undaunted, they persisted.

My words today are in third person, collectively, but our household was a Lion family. My Man Of The House was a devoted member until his death. He did it all … cooked, hung flags, worked at the Camp, and took me to the Annual Ladies Night event. I would later become a member myself, but I was not as devoted as he had been. My favorite segment of the twice-monthly meeting was the Tail Twister time. My MOTH was the Tail Twister, and watching him perform made me proud to be a Lion. A story for another day. See you on October 23.

Columnist Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock public library and a local historian.

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