A 76-year tradition ended in December when the Kansas Lions Club held its last meeting. Club members Steve Hood and Joe Zavoral said the club’s demise was in the works for a time and reflects …
A 76-year tradition ended in December when the Kansas Lions Club held its last meeting. Club members Steve Hood and Joe Zavoral said the club’s demise was in the works for a time and reflects how small towns are changing.
“It was time,” said Hood, adding the members discussed the option of ending the club for at least two years.
An important element of any local Lions Club is community service. Something both men said was becoming more difficult as businesses in Kansas closed, and the village shifted to a bedroom community rather than one where people made a living.
Demographic changes with younger people leaving town resulted in an older population that was tasked with the responsibility of community building. Zavoral said the Kansas Lions Club had only three members younger than 40 and most of the membership was 65, or older.
Hood added the older age of the members made it difficult to find people with sufficient health and energy to tackle community projects. The advancing age was also at odds with the state Lions organization that operates digitally and wants reports from all local clubs filed online. Hood said only a few members were computer savvy, and that placed the burden of repeatedly holding club offices on them.
The COVID-19 pandemic was also a factor.
Zavoral said it is incorrect to lay the blame for the club’s dissolution on COVID, but it did contribute. People got out of the habit of attending meetings during the shutdown, and when it was possible to meet again, older members were reluctant to return because of health concerns.
Hood stressed Kansas is not unique and many communities in the area have lost their Lions Clubs.
“There are a lot of Lions going out,” said Hood. “The younger generation doesn’t want to get involved.”
Ending the Lions Club is not the same as walking away from the community. The Lions Club is done, but a new opportunity arose as many club members are switching allegiance to the Kansas Community Corporation to tackle local activities.
“We will continue to do for the community but as new members of the Community Corporation,” said Zavoral.
Hood added one of the final actions of the Lions Club members was to transfer the remaining cash in the Lions’ account and a building to the Community Corporation.
The switch is expected to invigorate the Community Corporation that started in 1993 to benefit the community. The two men said it is unlikely the Community Corporation will face a dilemma of declining membership in the foreseeable future since anyone with an interest can join and take an active role. Membership in the Lions, Hood said, was by invitation only.
The first meeting of the Community Corporation is 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 10, at the Christian Church. Bringing their long experience in Lions, Hood with 40 years and Zavoral with 25 years, the new meeting will use a Lions Club format with a meal followed by a business session.
“We were afraid we might lose a few if we didn’t feed them,” said Zavoral.
Having an active Community Corporation, means popular Kansas Lions Club activities like the annual Halloween costume contest, a Christmas light decorating contest and providing Christmas baskets can continue. Scholarships for Kansas High School graduates will continue, and Hood is hopeful the ramped-up activity will prompt others to join. A goal is to get younger residents involved and resume the Kansas Homecoming celebration in the future.
Witnessing the Lions Club’s demise was personally sad for Hood and Zavoral, but they have chosen to move forward in a positive manner.
“You are only going to get out of your community what you put into it,” Zavoral said.