By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN At a time when some organizations are experiencing difficulty attracting new members, the Lester Prairie Lions Club has experienced a resurgence of interest, doubling its membership in the past few years.
Many of those new members have been younger people looking for ways to serve their community.
One of these newer members is first vice president Troy Feltmann, who joined the group three years ago.
Feltmann said 18 of the group’s 35 members joined in the past three years.
This injection of new members has been welcomed by longtime members such as past president Ralph Machemehl, who is among the charter members who joined the group 31 years ago.
Machemehl noted the group’s motto is, “We serve,” but said that in addition to opportunities to serve the community, new members often find they enjoy participating in the club.
“We need people to get involved,” Machemehl commented.
The group meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Thursday each month at Lester Prairie City Hall. These are generally dinner meetings, with one of the members providing a group meal.
The Lester Prairie Lions conduct a variety of fundraising efforts throughout the year, including pancake breakfasts.
“They get a good meal,” Machemehl commented, adding that the breakfasts also help to give the group exposure in the community.
Recently, the Lions took over holiday wreath sales that used to be done by the Cub Scouts.
Since there is not currently a Cub Scout group in Lester Prairie, the Lions stepped in and sold wreaths, and will do so again this year.
The club also has a can trailer in downtown Lester Prairie for collecting aluminum cans.
The group also has a collection box for used eyeglasses in front of the Lester Prairie post office. The box, built by Lions Feltmann and president Chip Hentges, has been a successful addition. The glasses are recycled and distributed to those in need.
Giving back to the community
Machemehl said the club has given back more than $250,000 to the community since its inception, and the total continues to rise.
The Lions support a wide variety of things in the community. Recently, for example, the Lions donated $5,000 to the City of Lester Prairie for a project to improve baseball and softball fields.
The Lions Club has organized fundraisers to help residents who have experienced medical issues.
Machemehl said some recipients have been uncomfortable having the club do a benefit for them, but noted the community wants the club to do them.
“People really support benefits,” Machemehl said. “This community wants to help. In a small community, that’s what it’s all about.”
Another way the club serves the community is through an emergency fund.
This fund was previously handled through the Lester Prairie Community Chest, and has since been taken over by the Lions.
Donations from this fund have been used to provide relief to community who have experienced events such as house fires.