Herald JournalHerald Journal, July 28, 2003

LP Lions have donated $190,000 since 1986

By Julie Yurek
Staff Writer

More than $190,000 has been given away to Lester Prairie community organizations, residents, and projects since 1986, when the club first began, after being absent from the community since the 1960s.

The mission of all Lions Clubs is to serve, according to the organization's web site.

The Lions are known for its charity and donations to fight blindness, hearing loss, and diabetes, however, the majority of its money is given away to local groups.

Of the $190,000 that the Lester Prairie Lions has given away so far, much of it has gone to repeat organizations. However, the club has given to one-time recipients many times, said Gambling Manager Joe Miller.

One-time recipients include transplant patients and Lester Prairie students attending a summer seminar or conference.

Miller tallied up donations to date for most of the regular organizations it donates to.

Organizations make requests to the Lions and then members vote at the monthly meeting, Miller said.

The Lions cannot accept anything in return for the money it gives, he said.

The organizations that the Lions regularly donate to include:

  • the Vikings Council, which redistributed the money to the Boy Scouts, has received $5,500.
  • the Lester Prairie Easter Egg Hunt has received $3,500, which goes towards candy and a savings bond that is given away.
  • the Halloween party that the Lions used to organize received $10,500. The party offered an alternative to children instead of trick-or-treating, Miller said.
  • $7,100 to the Lester Prairie Holiday Festival in December ­ the Lions provide the treat bags to children.
  • the summer youth baseball program has received $16,000.
  • Lester Prairie Schools has received $47,000 for playground equipment and clubs such as the National Honor Society, and the band department, Miller said. The money has seldom gone to sports activities, he said.
  • the City of Lester Prairie has received $51,500.
  • the after prom party has received $2,300.
  • $8,500 in scholarships to Lester Prairie High School students.

About $28,000 has been given out over the years as general donations to one-time recipients and other miscellaneous organizations.

The Lions have also given $10,000 to fight blindness, hearing loss, and diabetes, he said.

Besides giving money away, the Lions also do projects around the community, such as repair fencing and installing playground equipment.

Pulltabs = donations

Where does the donation money come from?

The majority of it is from pulltab sales, Miller said. The Porthole Bar and Cafe is where the Lions sell its pulltabs.

Pulltabs are the best form of raising money for the Lions, Miller said. However, there is a lot of cost involved. The state allows the Lions to use 55 percent of its "take home" profit from a game to pay for "allowable expenses," Miller explained.

The profit is the sale of a game minus the prizes. A sold-out game may bring in $6,000, but $2,400 of that is paid out in prizes, he said.

Allowable expenses include cost Lions paid for a game, which can range from $18 to $50 each, taxes, lease space at the bar, paying the gambling manager, rent space for old games, and audit expenses.

Once all the allowable expenses are deducted, it leaves approximately $1,600 per month for donations, Miller said.

With pulltabs and a breakfast once or twice a year, the Lions have about $9,000 to $10,000 to donate each year, he said.

If a game does not sell out, the donation money is smaller because all the allowable expenses are still there, with a smaller profit to pay out of.

The Lions have an annual audit done that accounts for every dollar, Miller said. The state audits the club every three years, he added.

There have been critics of using gambling to raise money, Miller said. Some are worried that families may misuse funds for gambling.

Miller understands those concerns, but feels that the benefit to children and local organizations outweighs the risk of gambling abuse.

"The donations have done a lot of good," he said.

Supporting the local economy

Besides raising donation money, pulltabs also support the local economy, Miller said.

In the 17 or so years of pulltab sales, about $160,000 has been paid to bar establishments in the area, he said.

In total, the Lions has contributed $350,000 to the community since 1986.

In its history of selling pulltabs, five to six different establishments were used, Miller said.

More members wanted

Miller would like to see more people joining the Lions. He realizes there are more organizations to belong to now, he said.

"However, without the Lions, many programs couldn't exist for children," he said.

The club currently has about 30 active members, many of which are the charter members from 1986, Miller said.

Miller was one of the youngest Lions charter members back in 1986, he said. Many members are now in their 60s and 70s.

In a few years, it's possible that membership may decrease to as few as 20 if new members don't join, he said.

Interested persons may contact Jim Moller at P.O. Box 731, Lester Prairie, MN 55354, or may call Miller at 320-395-2750.

Lions meetings are the first Thursday of the month at city hall at 6:30 p.m.

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