After 90 years of continued service to area residents experiencing issues with vision and hearing, the Lions Club of Jamestown looks forward to finding new ways to support the community.
The Lions Club met on Tuesday for its last lunch meeting of the year. The club opened the meeting with a flag salute and recited the Lions Creed, which states: "Where Lions meet, be present Lord. Wield our hearts in one accord, to do thy will Lord. Make us strong, to aid the weak and right the wrong."
Mary Gabalski, president of the Lions Club, spoke about how the club was chartered in 1922 and that after 90 years it still continues to serve the visually impaired in the community. She also welcomed two representatives of other area organizations the Lions Club is collaborating with, including Carolyn Stafford, representing the Chautauqua Region Multiple Sclerosis Society, and Ron Cotten, chairman of the Veterans Park Commission.
Pictured from left are the Rev. Warren VanDewark, Lion; Beverley M. Lubi, of the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation; Ron Cotten, chairman of the Veterans Park Commission; Chuck Telford, secretary of the Lions Club of Jamestown; Guy Ditonto, Lion; and Johannes J. Teigeler, Lion. Cotten was presented with a check from the Dr. John and Sue Nelson Memorial Fund to help with the new Veterans Memorial Park on West Third Street.
"We'd like to join efforts with other organizations," said Gabalski. "As we all know, groups and organizations are getting smaller. Everywhere you go people are saying that they have a hard time with membership. I think what you see in this room is a pretty good representation of different groups and organizations and the interworkings between all of us to do some things to better the community. Any time we can sit down at a table where we have a number of groups represented, it tends to get more work done. So, I encourage other organizations to come to us to work together."
Gabalski then asked Stafford to speak about the presentation of the Stanley Stafford Award, named after Carolyn's husband, to the Lions Club. The award is presented annually to a group or business that has shown support of the MS Society, has helped it further its goals in providing social events and support for Chautauqua County residents with MS. Every year the Lions Club partners with the MS Society to host a picnic. The certificate was presented to Chuck Telford, Lions Club secretary.
"The Chautauqua Region Multiple Sclerosis Society certifies that the Lions Club of Jamestown has been awarded the 2012 Stanley Stafford Award in appreciation and acknowledgment of their outstanding community service in aiding their neighbors with multiple sclerosis," said Stafford.
Telford then introduced Cotten, and spoke of his dedication and commitment to ensuring that no veteran was buried in Lake View Cemetery without a proper stone. Thanks to Cotten's mission, every veteran in Soldiers' Circle is recognized for their service. Cotten is currently working with the Veterans Park Commission to raise funds for the relocation of the Veterans Memorial Park to West Third Street. Fundraising began nearly two years ago, and a number aspects of the park have already been paid for with those funds. The next step for the commission is to begin excavations to put in electrical lines and more. Although the park is still receiving renovations, it was officially dedicated in July and is currently open to the public.
"We have raised more than $60,000 for the park so far," said Cotten. "People ask me why, and I'll briefly try to answer that question. Through the different wars that our country has been involved in we have reacted differently to the soldiers going off to war and to those returning. At the time of conflict in Vietnam, veterans were not welcomed back by many of the people in this country. People took their wrath out on the servicemen and women returning instead of on the elected officials that sent them. So, we began to realize that perhaps there is a way that we as a country and a community can get together to say, 'Thank you.' So, we're trying to establish a proper memorial to honor all veterans, and we need to raise somewhere near another $60,000. And, I'm hoping that the community will get behind this again to help us finish the project."
To help with the Veterans Park Commission's efforts, the Lions Club utilized Chautauqua Region Community Foundation funds from the Dr. John and Sue Nelson Memorial Fund to present Cotten with a $300 check. The Nelsons were both past presidents of the Lions Club. For more information on the Veterans Relocation Project contact CRCF at 661-3390 or visit crcfonline.org.
"We established that fund because John and Sue Nelson were such a big part of the Lions Club, and we wanted something not only to keep their memory alive, but to keep alive what we knew they would do if they were here with us," said Gabalski. "We don't have a lot of money in the fund, but we've taken a little bit of it to put toward a purpose, which we hadn't found the right one until now. So, I'd like to present (Cotten) with a check to help with your project."
The Lions Club of Jamestown is a part of District 20N. The district consists of 60 other Lions Clubs with more than 2,600 members across Western New York. Although the Lions Club typically aims to help people with visual-impairment or hearing issues, the group also strives to support the community in other ways. Throughout its history the club helped Southwestern School District complete a new playground, it has supported the Babe Ruth World Series for 27 years, has sponsored Little League teams for 58 years, supported outings for the Randolph Children's Home and more.
In 1926, four years after the Lions Club of Jamestown was chartered, it planted 40,000 trees in Gerry and erected a club house. Today the club has boxes for the collection of glasses all over the county. The glasses are restored before being sent to various underdeveloped countries around the world. The club also works with the Chautauqua Blind Association to offer assistance to the blind across the county.
One of the Lions Club's primary fundraisers is its annual White Cane Sale held during Labor Day weekend. But, it also hosted a fundraiser on Friday at Bob Evans in which a portion of patrons' checks were donated to the Lions Club of Jamestown.
The Lions Club of Jamestown meets on the first Thursday of each month at Roberto's on Second Street. For more information visit jamestownlionsclub.com.