History records and explains past events, while folklore preserves what people widely remember.
History and Folklore!
In the 1950’s as the Village moved into private ownership, housing development increased, and the population exploded, local chapters of some nationally known organizations were formed. The following story about one of them was researched and written by Ron Anderson of the Greendale Lions Club.
Lions Clubs International began in 1917 as the dream of a Chicagoan, Melvin Jones. He believed that local business clubs should expand their horizons from purely professional concerns to the betterment of their communities and the world at large. The organization has since grown to over 1.3 million members in 200 countries.
On November 10, 1955, 27 Greendale men received notice from Lions International that their request to form a club was accepted. They met for a Charter Presentation Dinner on February 18, 1956 at St. Alphonsus Hall. Tickets were $2.50 per person.
They elected Charles Bates as president. Long-time residents will surely recognize some of the charter members: Harold Bruett, Leo Hoyer, Thomas Hartman, John Ambruster, Leon Davis and Ellis Brown, to name a few.
The motto of the Lions is "We Serve." The Greendale Lions record of service to the community has been well carried out and can be attested to by the club’s record, then and to this day. Some examples:
- Expansion of the Youth Memorial Building, then located at 6850 Crocus Court, was the first major project. Beginning in 1957, $5,000 was raised to improve its service as a meeting place for several community groups, young and old. Fundraising was accomplished by staffing a dunking booth at 4th of July celebrations. For 40 years thereafter, the club subsidized the building’s operation and did many maintenance chores.
- The annual Pancake Breakfast, began on the Youth Memorial Building grounds in 1960 and continues to this day currently at the high school multi-purpose room. The breakfast supports a significant portion of the college scholarship awards, currently $6,000 to $7,500 annually. To date approximately 150 scholarships have been awarded to Greendale High School graduates.
- The annual Easter Egg Hunt has been in existence since 1965. This is strictly a fun event for the children, not a fundraiser. The Greendale Fire Department participates with their ladder truck and blows the horn to start the event. Then the race is on for the children to find the Easter candy. Parents and grandparents come to watch this early morning scramble, come rain or shine (or snow).
- Other projects over the years include installation of play equipment in Lions Park, participation with LensCrafters in free vision screenings, and conducting outings for the blind. Lion Gorden VonGonten convinced the Lions International Foundation to provide a $60,000 grant for renovations to the local Center for Blind & Visually Impaired Children.
- In 1994, Lion Bob Drews lamented the fact that Greendale had no focal point where the citizenry could congregate for entertainment events. He suggested that what the Village needed was a Gazebo large enough to stage band concerts. It soon became apparent that, even with volunteer Lions labor, the cost would be $50,000. Undaunted, he spread the word among other civic organizations, and a commission was formed to conduct a fund drive. The goal was reached by spring of 1995 through sales of engraved bricks for the floor at $25 each. A contractor was hired for the foundation work, after which many Lions participated in carpentry, electrical, roofing and painting work. The gazebo was dedicated in August of 1995. It has served the community well ever since. Engraved bricks can still be purchased for the walkways. Proceeds sustain a maintenance fund administered by the Lions.
- Ever since that first dunking booth, the Lions have maintained a presence at 4th of July and Village Days celebrations. Early staffing of amusement games on the high school grounds has evolved into the current well-provisioned food, beverage and entertainment garden adjacent to the Village Gazebo. The sale of food and refreshments, along with a raffle, and Rummage on the Green has become the club’s main source of funds to support humanitarian efforts.
Over the years, Greendale Lions donations have subsidized many Greendale services, such as the library, Public Celebrations Committee, Health Department programs, concerts, ambulance and defibrillator purchases, to name a few.
Just recently, the club’s Board of Directors authorized a donation of $2,500 towards architectural drawings for the Greendale Historical Society’s ongoing project to restore the exterior of the now 74 year old Hose Tower Building and put its interior to new use.
The club’s roster has been in the range of 50 to 70 members through most of its 57 years. It is not uncommon for members to serve 30, 40 or 50 years. Some notable past presidents, now deceased, are Gerald Casey, Frank Ellison, Emory Turner, Homer Hansen and John Kovacic. The current Lions President is Jim Schutte, and the President-Elect is Gary Jacobsen. In 1987, Lions Clubs International became the first major service organization to admit women as members. Shortly after that, John’s wife, Mary Ann Kovacic, joined the club. She is currently in her 22nd year of service, and has held the presidency twice.
Over the years, the club has seen fit to honor members who have provided distinguished service to the community, by naming them Lions International Melvin Jones Fellows. Five current members, all past presidents, have received the honor. They are Wayne Broeker, Robert Drews, Ted Fennig, Walt Rolfs and Lyle Dorow.
The Greendale Lions Club, with a proud history and a promising future, continues to serve Greendale and the world communities.
But did you know? Lions clubs collect used eyeglasses which are professionally sorted and delivered to the needy in third world countries. You can drop yours in a container in the post office lobby.
The Greendale Lions are changing their colors. After 27 years of marching in parades in yellow T-shirts with blue lettering, watch for us this summer sporting new green T-shirts with white lettering.
** Week #68 contributors Sally Chadwick, Ron Anderson, Family and Friends of Hilbert Drews.