Lions celebrate 70 years

Posted on March 28th in Feature Story

The Burns Lions Club poses for a photo with their collection of canned food after a drive in 1962. The club will have a 70th anniversary celebration on Saturday at the Harney County Community Center. (Submitted photo.)

A special dinner will be held on March 31 at the community center

By Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

The Burns Lions Club will mark their 70th anniversary this Saturday, March 31, with a special dinner and celebration at the Harney County Community Center.

George Sahlberg, Burns Lions president and secretary, noted that several dignitaries are expected to attend the event including past International Director Dennis Tichenor, District Governor Jim Stagl and Chairman of the Council of Governors Richard Smith.

Lions Clubs International began in Chicago in 1917 and has grown to include about 1.5 million members worldwide.

According to a history provided by Sahlberg:

The Burns Lions Club got its start in 1942 when a den of 30 charter members, mothered by the Bend Lions, and sired by a desire of local men to assist their community in future improvements and to make lives of Harney County residents more enjoyable and rewarding, helped it become a reality.

The 30 cubs became full-fledged Lions on May 9, 1942, when a Charter was officially presented by District Governor Angus Gibson of Junction City at a meeting in the Arrowhead Hotel.

Wallace Welcome was named the first president, with M.E. Quier first vice president and Arthur Beckwith second vice president. Other charter officers included Raymond Voegtly, secretary/treasurer; Douglas Mullarkey, lion tamer; Orville Corbett, tail twister; and four directors, Cleve Bennett, Perry Elsmore, Dr. John Weare and Robert Carlson.

The first year, the club launched support of a Cub Scout program, sparked a war bond drive, and when tooth care became a community concern, brought an educational puppet show designed to promote better care of teeth to local schools.

By 1943, the Burns Lions Club was sponsoring talent shows and a Fourth of July fireworks show, backing the continuing war bond drives, and staging a drive for funds to combat polio. It was also the Burns Lions who went to the gasoline rationing board during that war year and secured gas to provide transportation for the high school athletic teams to nearby cities. This provided encouragement and moral support to young athletes, and provided much needed entertainment for the public when such entertainment had all but ceased under the restrictions of war.

• In 1949 and 1950, almost half the cost of the high school’s new piano was raised by the club at a cost of $1,450, a 4-H scholarship was given, a swim meet backed and a milk program for high school students was pushed.

• In 1951, the club launched a program to light the athletic field that later bore results.

• Starting in 1953, the Lions brought circuses to town annually for several years to raise funds for benevolent purposes.

• The year 1961 saw two memorable events etched into club records. The popular birthday calendar project was originated locally and the Lions brought to Burns the now nationally famous YMCA circus of youths from Wenatchee, Wash.

• In 1965, Hank Dickerson of the Burns club was elected district governor (DG) of District 36-G.

• From 1968-1970, the Lions led an effort to install a new electric scoreboard at Veterans Memorial Field; sponsored food drives, boxing matches, athletic banquets and team roping; and initiated a scholarship program. Al Starns was also elected DG of Multiple District 36-G, becoming only the second DG from the Burns club.

• In 1972, projects included their annual orange sale, lightbulb sales and ballpoint pen sales. They sponsored a trip to Hawaii for the Hilander Stage Band, the world’s largest team roping event and basketball tournaments.

•In 1979, they sponsored Girl Scout Camp, Miss Harney County to the Miss Oregon pageant and wood cutting for senior citizens; contributed to a new scoreboard at the high school; and awarded two $600 scholarships.

• From 1980 to 1983, the scholarship program continued with $500 to $600 awarded to two students each year.

Current Burns Lions Club President/Secretary George Sahlberg hands out flags as part of a tradition that started in 1986.

The club helped fund the struggling meal program at the senior center, started the Demolition Derby and Tractor Pull, sponsored basketball tournaments and celebrated the club’s 40th anniversary.

• In 1984, enough money was in the scholarship fund to grant three $500 scholarships and a year later, they increased that to five $500 scholarships. They built tree stands on main street, helped the swim team and Little League and sponsored their first eye surgery patient at Devers in Portland. In 1986, flags were distributed to first-graders, and this continues to be an annual program.

• From 1987 to 1992, the club was involved in Little League, Youth Exchange, Girl Scouts, fireworks, the waterfowl festival and many other projects. Scholarships totaling $91,200 were awarded in 1990-1992 and the scholarship fund was up to $527,203.62.

• From 1993 to 1998, the club assisted with tree planting on the Burns Paiute Reservation, helped with an all-weather track at the high school, began the fly-in breakfast at the airport, supported the Canines in Coats project, helped raise funds for the giant community flag, re-established the Lions Invitational track meet and awarded $232,800 in scholarships.

• In 1999, Sahlberg was elected DG of District G, the third DG to be elected from Burns.
As in years past, the local club, now with 55 members, continues with fund raisers and regular projects, including hosting the Mobile Screening Unit.

Since 2000, the Burns Lions have contributed to many community projects and improvements, health screenings at the schools and various projects, and they continue awarding scholarships, including $99,600 given in 2011.

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