The Wayne Lions Club was established July 25, 1961, and celebrates 60 years of service to the community this year. The public is invited to join the Wayne Lions in celebration of their 60th anniversary at the Friday, Aug. 6 Chamber Coffee to be held at the Cobblestone Hotel at 10 a.m.
The official Wayne Lions charter is dated Aug. 7, 1961 and was signed by 37 members. The first president was Clifford M. Dahl.
The current officers are Ken Kwapnioski, President; Teresa Bartlett, Vice President; Mary Ettel, Treasurer, and Verna Mae Baier , Secretary.
Current members who have served as local club President multiple times are Charles Maier (4 terms) and Hibert Johs (3 terms). Charles Maier joined Wayne Lions in 1970, which makes him the senior member of the club.
The Wayne Lions are affiliated with Lions Club International whose mission is: To empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace, and promote international understanding through Lions clubs.
Through the years the Wayne Lions Club focus has been community service, youth events, with a special focus on sight-saving projects in our community, region, and the world.
The Lions have often participated in community projects with other Wayne service clubs such as fundraising to build the hospital. Another project was a fundraising project to purchase a Jaws of Life for the Wayne Fire Department. This was a project spearheaded by Lion Fred Webber during his time as President of the club (July 1979). Between July 1 and Sept.16 of that year, donations toward the Jaws of Life totaled $4,600 from individuals, local businesses, and organizations. The cost of the unit was $6,000, by October the project had exceed the purchase price and raised $7,148.
In the early years of the club the Lions were approached by the city of Wayne about a parcel of land adjacent to the Wayne Airport. The city offered the land to the Lions to be developed into a park. The city would provide the electricity and water to the park and the Lions would maintain the park. The revenue generated by the park would go to the Wayne Lions.
The Lions built a shelter and after discovering campers spending nights at the park, decided to make it into a RV Park. Since 1996 the park has been receiving campers for a nominal nightly fee. The park has eight parking pads with an electric 30 AMP and water hook up for each pad. There is also a dump station located at the park. The park is a primary source of funding for the Wayne Lions Club.
During the past 60 years the Lions have provided eyeglasses to many needy people in Wayne and surrounding communities. The Wayne Lions Club can assist in paying for eye exams and glasses for needy persons. A formal request for assistance must be made to a Lion’s member or an area optometrist.
Since 2005 the Wayne Lions have participated with the Nebraska Lions Mobile Screening unit to screen youth, kindergarten through fifth grade and sophomores at the Wayne Community Schools. The mobile screening unit has cameras which do a non-invasive screening and generates a report which is shared with parents indicating if a child needs a more detailed eye examination.
This type of screening helps identify children who need glasses or other vision adjustments get the needed attention for their sight. On average the Wayne Lions and the Mobile Unit screen 300 or more children and youth in the school system and the wider community.
This year’s screening event for Wayne Community Schools is set for Tuesday, Sept. 14.
In 2015 the Wayne Lions applied for a grant which was approved for the purchase of an eye screening camera. Since that time, the Wayne Lions have used the camera to screen youth at area day care facilities and preschools.
The Wayne Lions also participate in recycling used eyeglasses and hearing aids. The Lions will accept glasses with unbroken plastic frames, sunglasses, safety glasses, prescription sunglasses, broken or unbroken metal frames. The eyeglasses are recycled and distributed in many third world countries. Eyeglass collection boxes are located at the library and at area eye doctors. The hearing aids are recycled by Lions of Nebraska.
The Wayne Lions have had numerous fundraisers in their 60-year history. Some fundraisers were long-term while others were short-term.
For about 10 years the Lions sold ads on the baseball fence until a new type of fencing was installed. The group has sold raffle tickets for Thanksgiving turkeys, light bulbs, brooms, and brushes made by the blind, White Cane sales, and Halloween Candy. The club has hosted pancake feeds and various other dinners, New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s dances, flea markets, as well as Big Red Football contests. All funds are used to help support Lions projects and the community.
The club has been active in community events including participation in Chicken Days, the Angel Tree and Gifts for Kids projects for the last three years. The club also for many years hosted a Talent Contest which often drew large crowds. The Wayne Lions are also active participants with Wayne Chamber events.
Through the years there have been many service projects including a glaucoma screening event for over 200 people and gutter cleaning. Since the early 1980’s the Lions have participated with Wayne Community Schools in a track meet in the spring. The club has supported youth activities such as Punt, Pass and Kick and other youth athletic events.
The club supports local agencies such as the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign, Wayne Food Pantry and Haven House, as well as mowing and maintaining Lions Park east of town.
In addition to supporting local projects and agencies the Wayne Lions make regular contributions to the Nebraska Lions Foundation, Lions Club International and Leader Dogs for the Blind.
One aspect of Lions Club is the Melvin Jones Fellowship Program established in 1973 in honor of Melvin Jones, the founder of Lions Clubs International. The MJF program recognizes donations of $1,000 to the Lions Clubs International Foundation. Through the years the Wayne Lions Club has recognized 10 Melvin Jones Fellows; Clete Sharer, Verna Mae Baier, Fred Webber, Fred Mann, Hilbert Johs, Frank Fink, Charles Maier, Pat Cook, Russ Rasmussen and Pam Shanks. The Wayne Lions have contributed more than $10,000 to LCIF since the Melvin Jones Fellows program began in 1990. The most recent donation was in January 2020.
Through the years the Wayne Lions Club has proudly supported two district governors: Clete Sharer (1974-75) and Pam Shanks (2003-04). In addition, Wayne Lions have served as chairpersons of district committees, hosted cabinets meetings, offered training events. During the last year, many Zone and Cabinet meetings have been via Zoom.
Special awards for Lion’s members in 2020 include Lion President Ken Kwapnioski being named Wayne’s Citizen of the Year; Monarch Milestone Chevron Awards presented to Lion Victor Kniesche; a 35-year member, Lion Matt Ley and Lion Teresa Bartlett both 10-year awards.
The Lions meet monthly the first Tuesday at Taco's & More. The group shares a meal at 6:30 p.m., and the business meeting begins at 7 p.m. All are welcome to join the Wayne Lions for a monthly meeting or contact any of the current officers for more information about Lions club.
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