Chatfield Lions Club turning ‘golden’ as it celebrates 50 years

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Chatfield Lions president Bill McMahon and members Michelle Folken, Rodney Herrick and Molly Baum stand in the Groen Park picnic pavilion that the club built several years ago as one of its largest local projects. The club is marking its 50th anniversary this Thursday, June 20, with a picnic in the pavilion.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Chatfield Lions Club: Got that pride.

“The club was started in April 1969, and Willie Eppen, Bob Battey and Glenn Lovejoy were big instigators,” recounted Chatfield Lions Club president Bill McMahon, telling how the club, which is marking its 50th anniversary this year, came to be.

Fellow Lion Molly Baum told the tale of how the Chatfield Rotary Club disbanded and its members joined the Lions, as did some of the former Jaycees who had aged out of the 35-and-under Jaycees organization.

Baum added that the early membership roll stood at approximately 25 people. “We met at Interstate Power in the big meeting room,” he said.

Early Lion Rodney Herrick contributed, “We started having a big meal at Jonathan’s, and then at the Chatfield Hotel. Women weren’t allowed, but we don’t have a Lionesses club like Stewartville and Zumbrota had.”

Jerry Baudoin was president of the club at the time the membership had to relocate to another meeting place, and since then, the pack has gathered at various Chatfield locations, doing what they do best – support their community.

Current officers include president McMahon, secretary Ed Harris and treasurer Chuck Johnson, leading an active collection of Chatfield citizens who feel strongly about doing what’s good for their neighbors here and afar, from raising the money to build the Groen Park picnic pavilion to lending a hand with Lions International initiatives.

Member Michelle Folken wrote a summary of the club’s activities in the April 17 Chatfield News, citing, “Lions Club International is a service organization whose purpose is to help people. Our motto is ‘We Serve.’ Our five service areas that we focus on are diabetes, vision, hunger, environment and childhood cancer.”

Throughout the years, the Chatfield Lions have helped fund or support many things in the local area, including the Chosen Valley Student Loan Fund, Minnesota Lions Eye Bank, scholarships for local students, a shelter at Groen Park, and many more.

“We collect used eyeglasses for people who need glasses but can’t afford them,” Folken continued. “We have helped contribute to the Lions Eye Bank at the University of Minnesota, which has done over 10,000 cornea transplants and has a research building and macular degeneration center. We clean up along state and county highways in our area each spring and fall. We have a peace poster contest we do each year with the students in our school district to promote the idea of peace. We have had several families host exchange students through the Lions Student Exchange Program, which hopes that students will experience another culture and develop a better understanding of people, and that would lead to more peaceful relations worldwide.”

The Chatfield Lions Club is the charter organization for the Chatfield Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. “We hand out dictionaries and rulers to our elementary students every year. We assist with the Academic Awards Banquet every May and the Senior Citizen Christmas Dinner every December,” Folken wrote. “We sponsor the mutton-busting activity every Western Days, we help support the Chatfield food shelf. And, of course, there are many small acts of kindness that our members do for others every day.”

Herrick, Folken, McMahon and Baum attempted to further list the projects that the club has undertaken, including building a bridge in Mill Creek Park and raising funds for the Chosen Valley Care Center when in-room televisions were not part of the rental and care package. Herrick noted that the money was used to purchase a projector and screen for residents to use for movie night. The Lions have also updated tech equipment at the Chatfield Public Library, hosted a booth at the annual Easter fair, collected hearing aids and glasses to redistribute through the larger organization’s channels and provided trees to plant at Chatfield parks, including some bought and planted in honor of the club’s special anniversary.

Herrick related, “We sold and planted a whole bunch of crabapple trees, and way back in Willie’s day, we put benches at Savanna Spring.”

The club has also contributed to the programs at the former Camp Winnebago, taken up supporting the daily snack program at the elementary school, lent a hand to residents who lost their homes due to fire, among other projects.

McMahon commented that all these efforts have been made possible through some simple fundraisers. “Our annual raffle and rose sales have been our big moneymakers,” he said.

Herrick pointed out that the number of fundraisers is fewer than the club used to hold. “We had a lot of fundraisers, especially when Jerry was president,” he added.

Baum prodded McMahon jokingly, acknowledging the friendly competition between the two for the greatest rose or raffle ticket sales. “You always get a head start on me…hmm….”

Herrick observed that the club has changed over the years, from the members to the technology used to communicate the club’s news. He reiterated the inclusion of women in the club itself and added that a monthly newsletter used to be printed and mailed to members.

“Back in the day, we used to have pins that were a big thing to wear on our Lions vests, and we’ve gone from using a typewriter to a copy machine because we always sent out a newsletter that was typewritten and copied,” Herrick said.

Baum and McMahon are pleased that the club has had “a few couples” and even some second-generation Lions, including John Martinka, whose parents were Lions in a different club, and Baum’s son, Brian, a second-generation Chatfield Lion.

More recently, the Lions are proud to note that Lion Hanna Elshoff, who pedaled her way to Georgia and back in her solar-powered bicycle to raise funds for the Leader Dogs for the Blind program, has been recognized for her work in representing the program.

A notice also in The Chatfield News on April 17 shares, “Hanna Elshoff, member of the Chatfield Lions Club, received an award for the Lions Club International program called New Voices, which celebrates women’s contributions to Lions Clubs International. Hanna was recognized for her contributions in the area of service. This award was given to her by our district governor, Nadeen Lunde, at the Chatfield Lions Club February meeting held at the Pope and Young Club.”

Folken added, “Our international president is a woman, and the new campaign, New Voices, highlights and recognizes women in the club.”

McMahon registered, “If it wasn’t for Hanna, there probably wouldn’t be a club here to have a 50th celebration. But I think it’s the longevity part of the club. It’s nice having a group together for 50 years.”

Folken concurred, “We’ve made it for 50 years. That’s a good sign. And you develop great friendships with people in your own town.”

McMahon agreed, “It’s satisfying donating to someone so we can accomplish something to make someone else’s life better in our own community. If we keep doing things, I think we’ll be doing well.”

The club invites the public to join them at the Groen Park picnic shelter this Thursday, June 20, from 5 to 8 p.m. to enjoy a dinner of brats, burgers, beans, chips and root beer.

McMahon extended the club’s welcome, “Stop by and have dinner with us. We’ll have live music with ‘Tiff and Tat,’ and we’ll have kids’ games, and we’ll probably have Brian Sheehan, who’ll be president of Lions International in 2022 speak — he’s the first Minnesotan Lions Club International president. Everybody’s welcome to join us. Please come. We’re always looking for new Lions.”

Folken’s notice regarding the club’s 50th anniversary ended with another invitation. “The Chatfield Lions Club is always open to new members joining. It is open to men and women. We meet on the fourth Saturday of every month at 8 a.m. in the Chatfield Public Library basement.”