By Brenda L. Holmes
PLAINFIELD — The Plainfield Lions Club was chartered April 1, 1926, with 21 members. The current roster is marking its 85th year of service to the community with a celebration.
Member Dan Young said one thing that attracted him to the club was its donation practices.
“I think its noteworthy that 100 percent of the proceeds we generate goes to the charity,” Young said. “Our expenses for projects are taken care of by our dues. So all the money we raise is donated.”
The Lions Club was founded in 1917 by Melvin Jones of Chicago. The Lafayette Lions was the first Lions Club in Indiana. Those members sponsored the Plainfield club, which is the second oldest club in the state.
The Plainfield Lions Club has a long list of project it supports each year including Leader Dogs for the Blind, Indiana Eye Bank, and the American Diabetes Association.
Worth Donaldson has been a member of the Plainfield club for more than 14 years.
“I really enjoy the fellowship,” he said. “It just feels good to help other people.”
Members were recently able to meet a person who received one of the leader dogs they raised funds to buy.
“We could see this was a life-changing event for her,” Donaldson said. “We have all kinds of resources and can help in all sorts of ways.”
Another one of the club’s larger projects is helping to pay for the Gamma Knife Cancer Control, which was purchased for the Indiana University Cancer Center.
They also do small projects like Valentine’s Day cards for shut-ins.
“We work with the schools to have the kids make the Valentine cards,” Young said. “We have some very talented young artists in Plainfield.”
Children in kindergarten through third grade make the cards which are then distributed by Lions Club members on Valentine’s Day.
“It really brightens their day to see those beautiful cards,” Jim Pea said. “We always pick out a couple and read them during our club meetings.”
Young said one of his favorite projects was helping a young girl receive a Braille writer so she could attend the Indiana School for the Blind.
“This is an expensive piece of equipment so we called our contacts, which are other Lions Club members, and found one for a reduced price,” he explained. “And when it arrived, there was a ton of paper to go with it. That was a bonus. She was so happy she had tears in her eyes. That made my Christmas this year.”
The Lions come together for many reasons, including meeting new friends while giving back to the community.
Pea joined the Plainfield Lions Club in 1992 but had been a member of the club in Aurora from 1976 to ‘78.
“When I first moved to Plainfield I wanted to get involved in the community and this was a great bunch of guys and gals,” Pea said. “I think since the club started accepting women it has been very good for the organization.”
Traditionally Lions were all male, but now there are women in the clubs and taking on leadership roles. The Plainfield club is currently under the leadership of president Judy LeMasters. She and her husband are both Lions.
The local clubs have their own leadership network that includes president, first vice president, second vice president, secretary, treasurer, tail twister, and lion tamer. The club also has directors who serve for one- or two-year terms.
Then there is state, national, and even international leadership. And service projects can be started by any level of leadership from the local club all the way up to a worldwide effort.
“People think we just flip pancakes and collect nickels and dimes,” Young said. “And that would be true. But we flip millions of pancakes and collect all those nickels and dimes.”
Recently, Lions Club International donated $125 million to help with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
With all these activities, Lions had to have a special way to collect their memories. Lions Club members collect special pins from different service projects and other clubs. They then wear the decorative pins on their bright yellow vests when they meet or are out in the community doing service projects.
The Plainfield Lions Club has its own pin that it gives to speakers or other club members who visit. Their pin has an interesting history.
“Back in the 1970s, the Plainfield schools would use a Quaker off of the Quaker Oats box,” Young said. “The schools received a letter politely asking them to stop using their logo.”
A talented Plainfield High School art student created the Quaker still used today for Plainfield sports teams, Young added.
“But that student didn’t get the logo copywritten so we started seeing other places copy our Quaker,” he said. “So what we did is get the logo copywritten and dedicated to the Plainfield schools. We are very proud of our Quakers.”
The Plainfield Lions Club will celebrate is 85th birthday with a special dinner April 2 at the Plainfield Elks Club. Lions from all over have been invited.
“We will even have an International director joining us,” Young said.
The Plainfield Lions Club meets at 6 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month at Goody’s Restaurant in Plainfield.
For more information, call Judy LeMasters at 839-0500, Bob Monroe at 745-1859, Lloyd McDaniel at 839-4284, or Dan Young at 839-2687.