By Aiesha Solomon

The Laurel Lions Club is celebrating its 90th year serving the city of Laurel. Lions volunteers have generously supported the city since the club’s founding in 1932, providing residents with a range of basic necessities —  glasses, walkers, wheelchairs, canes — and assisting with the city’s Halloween Spooktacular event every fall. 

Lions Club
(left to right) Laurel Lions Club members Greg Scott, Jim Coakley, Vincent Schembari, Bob Mignon, Donald Danneman, Jim Kronmeyern and Charles Brannan at meeting on Sept. 27.
Photo Credit: Aiesha Solomon

“We appreciate everything that the Lions Club does. They’re very active in the community here and very involved working with our parks and rec department [with the] several co-sponsorships that they do,” Mayor Craig Moe said.

The club also donates money for scholarships for both Laurel and St. Vincent Pallotti high schools.

“Lions Club was challenged by Helen Keller back in the day to be knights for the blind. That’s why we collect eyeglasses and do so much work with vision and sight research,” said Donald Danneman, Lions president.

Funding for its projects is collected through different fundraisers, including its popular steamed crab sale, which is slated for Saturday, Oct. 22, from 1 to 4 p.m. at 204 Ft Meade Road. 

“Our crab sales were great and the idea is to make them better so we can increase our support to the community,” Danneman said.

The club will also have a booth at the Laurel Main Street Festival on Oct. 15.

“Through their fundraisers in the community, they have gone on to co-sponsor several community events that we hold here, and those are the annual Halloween spooktacular and the Easter extravaganza,” said Joanne Barr, deputy city administrator and the city’s former director of parks and recreation. “They’re there to help us on the day of the activity by filling bags or putting out Easter eggs or you know, just whatever kind of help they can be. They have always been there and it’s just a wonderful working relationship that we have with them.”

The Laurel Lions chapter is affiliated with Lions Club International, which was founded by Melvin Jones in Chicago, in 1917. Jones owned an insurance business and witnessed Americans in need firsthand. He believed that compassion and service were essential to the the club’s work; the Lions code of ethics calls on members to “aid my fellow man by giving my sympathy to those in distress, my aid to the weak, and my substance to the needy,” The story of the club’s founding is recorded in  Lions Clubs International video.

Danneman joined the club in 1992, when there were some 60 or 70 members. Thirty years later, those numbers have dwindled to 16, he said, of which only six or seven are active.

“When I joined, there were usually, actually, [club], elections going on,” Danneman said. “When I became president three years ago, had I not raised my hand, that probably would have been the end [of the club].”

 Individuals can join the club by invitation.

“We want volunteers, but you do have to be nominated and invited into the club,” explained Lions Club member Greg Scott.

According to guidelines of the Lions Club International, members who have served 20 years, or members who have served 15 years and are at least 70 years old, can become life members.

Laurel Lion Bob Mignon became a life member during the club’s meeting on Sept. 27. 

“Congratulations on joining more than 5,000 Lions that have been approved life members worldwide,” Danneman said to Mignon during his certification ceremony.

Women have been able to join the club since 1987. 

“It’s not a men only group,” explained Danneman’s wife, Becky. “Wives can be Lions as well, or it could be a woman without a husband. Everybody’s welcome.”

Danneman noted that attracting young people is an ongoing challenge.

“It’s been very difficult attracting young people to Lions because the baby boomers, which I’m part of, our parents were volunteers, they bestowed that and taught that to us to be volunteers and to provide service,” Danneman said.