Mount Prospect Lions Club celebrates 80 years of service

Submitted by Bill Pinter
Posted4/25/2014 9:38 PM
  • Customers shop for fresh fruits and vegetables at a Lions Club Farmers Market. The market is just one of the many events hosted annually by the Mount Prospect Lions.

    Customers shop for fresh fruits and vegetables at a Lions Club Farmers Market. The market is just one of the many events hosted annually by the Mount Prospect Lions. Daily Herald file photo

  • The sun sets on a previous Mount Prospect Lions Club festival.

    The sun sets on a previous Mount Prospect Lions Club festival. by Joe Lewnard/Daily Herald file photo

Members of the Mount Prospect Lions Club will gather with family, friends and dignitaries to look back on a storied past of volunteering on Friday, May 9.

The club will celebrate its 80th Charter Anniversary with a dinner dance at Manzo's Banquets, 1571 S. Elmhurst Road, Des Plaines, beginning at 6 p.m. "It is, in part, through the tireless volunteer efforts of civic organizations like ours that Mount Prospect has become nationally known as a great place to raise a family," said Mount Prospect Lions Club President Tom Laws, referring to a national magazine article that cited the village as the best place to raise children in the United States. "Since its earliest years, our club has played a leading role in organizing, funding and running family-friendly activities in Mount Prospect that in turn enable the club to raise money to help the needy."

Indeed, over the last 80 years, the Mount Prospect Lions Club has planned and operated a number of major annual civic events, including a five-day village festival (July 2-6, marks the 76th Lions Festival) featuring a carnival midway, live bands, a Taste of Mount Prospect food tent, a beer garden, a raffle, a car show, a special family day and two nights of fireworks (July 2 and July 4); a five-month long farmers market in the heart of downtown Mount Prospect every Sunday during the summer and fall; and a November corned beef and cabbage dinner and raffle for 400 Lions, their family and friends, area residents and local dignitaries.

The Mount Prospect Lions Club gained international recognition for its disaster relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina eight years ago. The club rallied many other local volunteer service organizations together to form "Operation ROAR," a disaster relief organization that now has 501 (c) 3 status under Mount Prospect Lions Charities Inc., and continues to provide aid to victims of natural disasters.

Proceeds raised from Mount Prospect Lions Club fundraising activities benefit many organizations and individuals, including the sight and hearing-impaired, the Mount Prospect Food Pantry, the Mount Prospect Fire and Police Departments, the Mount Prospect Historical Society, and local graduating high school seniors in need of college scholarships.

The Mount Prospect Lions Club was organized by a group of civic-minded citizens in October of 1933. The club's charter was issued on March 1, 1934, and signed by the 32 charter members with the first club president being Lion A.L. Buck, M.D.

In its earlier years, the club sponsored a Christmas party for needy children; made donations to the Red Cross and the Boy Scouts of America; and presented local schools with safety book covers. It purchased street signs for the village, built a toboggan slide, sponsored an Easter egg hunt for 200 children, and supported a village beatification project.

In 1946, the club bought 16 acres of land to be used as a park. A year later, it donated Lions Memorial Park to the village. The Mount Prospect Lions Club later donated many park improvements such as lighting, a shelter house, and a public address system. In conjunction with the park improvements, it paid for the blacktopping of the railroad parking lot.

The Mount Prospect Lions Club continues to sponsor an annual Easter egg hunt for visually impaired children as well as a Christmas Party for senior citizens. It has contributed to the Illinois Eye Research Center in Chicago, collected used eye glasses, funded eye examinations and provided eye glasses for the less fortunate of Mount Prospect in addition to making many contributions to Lions of Illinois camps for the blind and multiple handicapped. The club also created the Lion George Gattas Memorial Scholarship Fund, awarding scholarships to local high school graduating seniors who meet the criteria of the fund.

The Mount Prospect Lions Club has a membership of 71, including one member who serves on the park district board and four members that are on the village board.

"Our club's members believe that the 'We Serve' Lions motto is more than just a slogan," said Laws. "We pride ourselves on constantly striving to help the less fortunate, locally and globally."