Touchstone Story #63–Building Community
Lions have always worked to improve their communities through service. But during the 1940s and 1950s, their community-building efforts involved a great amount of actual building.
Whether paving roads, putting up schools or creating playgrounds, Lions in that era often focused on improving their towns’ physical space. Their efforts were prominent in the both the United States and in the growing number of countries where Lions Clubs International had spread. Wherever Lions built, they made a difference.
In many parts of the world, it was a time of transition and optimism. With World War II at an end, communities once again had time to focus on growth and improvement.
In 1949, Lions in Mexico City built the first of what would become a score of new schools. Belgian Lions began construction of a medical center and prenatal facility in the town of Hingene in 1952. That same year, in rural Shoal Lake, Manitoba, Canada, Lions launched work on a playground.
The public projects that Lions contributed—the neighborhood playgrounds, gyms, campgrounds, scout buildings, memorial fountains and thousands of Lions parks—were highly visible, and many remain prominent in their towns.
Lions were busy in those years, often relying on their resourcefulness and creativity to raise the funds needed to build.
Lions in Arvada, Colorado, needed two years to raise enough money for a tennis court that doubled in winter as a community skating rink, but they made it. In Florida, Lions built a dock for the Boys’ Home Association of Jacksonville that extended 250 feet into the St. Johns River. In the late 1940s in Morrill County, Nebraska, it took Lions four years of fundraising dances and auctions before they had enough money to build a 12-bed hospital in the tiny town of Bridgeport. Lions rolled up their sleeves and built a picturesque Girl Scout camp in Menlo Park, California. And in 1947, Lions in St. George, Utah, helped to build an arena, called the Dixie Sun Bowl, for rodeos and other sporting events.
The Sun Bowl is “a monument to the Lions and to the many people who gave so much to see it evolve from a simple idea to a practical reality,” a St. George Magazine article reported. Local Lion Neal Lundberg, a key player in the Bowl’s creation, said bluntly, “It’s a good example of what can happen when you get a bunch of damned fools headed in the same direction.”
Lions continue to shape their towns with construction projects big and small. In the early 1960s, Lions in Baguio City, Philippines, built the high-profile Melvin Jones Grandstand in the city’s famous Burnham Park. And in the small community of Tottenham, Australia, Lions helped upgrade the local airstrip in 2012, lengthening the runway and installing lighting so medical airlift planes could land.
“The strength of the community is its heart,” said Ben Nicholls, president of the Tottenham Lions Club, who oversaw the project, “and our little community has plenty of heart and have done what was needed.”
Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. Don’t forget to share these stories with new members so they gain an understanding of Lions history!