Welcome to the 

Bemidji, Minnesota

Lions Club

Bemidji is known as the home to
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox 


The 2021 Bemidji Lions Club Fall ATV Raffle came to an end on November 3 at the regular Lions Club Luncheon meeting.  To ensure a nonbiased drawing of the winning ticket, Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin dispatched Sergeant Dave Markert to make the selection.  The lucky winner was Ronalda Charnoski of Redby.  She had the option to take the ATV or $5,000 in cash.  Considering the fun the grandchildren would have with it, she selected the ATV.

Ronalda’s winning ticket was one of 3,000 tickets sold by Bemidji Lions since August to raise funds that the club will donate to various organizations over the next year that work in the areas of pediatric cancer, vision, diabetes, hearing, hunger, and youth.
Pictured l-r. Lions President Leon Nelson passing the key, Son Charlie Charnoski, Ronalda, Sponsor Brandon Mattfield from Bemidji Sports Centre, Lion Craig Cameron Raffle Coordinator, and First City Lion Susie Balstad.

Pancake Thank You
The Bemidji Lions Club wants to thank the many breakfast diners who made the Not Your Ordinary Pancake Days a success.  The partnership with resturants Minnesota Nice Café, Raphael’s Café, the Bemidji Eagles Club, or Country Kitchen to offer a special breakfast that would raise funds was well received given the restrictions of the COVID virus for holding events, such as the Lions Annual Flapjack Day.  The two month offer helped the club generate as much, and even a little more, than  planned for which contributes to our ability to support community organizations in the Bemidji area.

The Bemidji Lions at 80
In 1917, a Chicago businessman, Melvin Jones, proposed an idea to his local business organization the “Business Circle of Chicago”. His idea was to expand the focus of existing fraternal organization from purely business concerns to the betterment of the community at large. Out of this concept on June 7th of that year, 12 members voted the “Association of Lions Clubs” into existence taking the name from one of the existing organizations, “the Royal Order of Lions.” Plans for a national convention were made for Dallas in October.  At that time, 22 clubs sent 36 delegates to adopt a Constitution and By-Laws, chose the official colors of purple and gold and set for a Code of Ethics. Central to this Code was the tenet that “No Club shall hold forth the betterment of its members as its object.”

Lionism grew and in 1920 became international with the formation of Clubs in Canada. When Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness” at the International Convention in 1925, the long and historic work of Lions around the world to restore sight and prevent blindness was born. Most of the world’s Eye Banks are operated by Lions. Over the years the Leader Dog program was started and Lions became active in research on hearing loss and diabetes. New initiatives to help youth and childhood cancer have been added.

In 1939, the young city of Bemidji was undergoing change. The statue of Babe the Blue Ox was permanently placed alongside Paul Bunyan at the waterfront. A new auditorium was being constructed next to the high school with a grant from the WPA. A new addition was being built on the south end of the Lutheran Hospital. At the 20 year old Bemidji State Teachers College, newly elected President Charles Sattgast was watching the construction of Memorial Hall on the campus that served approximately 350 students.

Local businessmen were interested in starting a new service club with the sponsorship of the Grand Rapids Cap Baker Lions Club; the Bemidji Lions Club was chartered on April 25th, 1939, with 35 members. Dr. Robert Loux was the first president, dues we $1.00 per month and the attendance averaged 10 at each weekly meeting. The Club has weekly since its charter at such sites as the Rex Café, Lakeside Motel, Pine Night Club, Elks, Markham Hotel, Sands Café, Union Station, American Legion and currently at the Eagles Club.

Our Club is now over 100 strong and has been involved in many projects locally and across the globe. On an international level, we contribute to initiatives for diabetes, blindness, hearing loss, the environment, youth and a new initiative to combat pediatric cancer. Locally, one of the early projects was the installation of playground equipment and picnic shelters at Diamond Point Park and we recently installed a bench at Diamond Point to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lions International. The Bemidji Lions contribute to over 20 local organizations that helps provide care and services to the residents of the Bemidji area. Some examples are a partnership with Habitat with Humanity to sponsor a home for a visually impaired mother and her family with the help of a matching grant from the Lions Clubs International Foundation. We also are a fiscal agent and partner with others organizations in Heroes for Helpers, which provides children in need a chance to shop for themselves and family at Christmas.

Over our 80 years, the Bemidji Lions have raised conservatively one-half million dollars, the large share of that going to community projects. The oldest fundraiser of the Club, the Lions Fare, had its beginning in August of 1952. The annual Pancake Day was added in 1978 and the Fall Cash Raffle was added in 2015.

The Bemidji Lions Club is proud to be part of the Bemidji Community and hope to continue its mission far into the future. The Lions motto of “WE SERVE” is a constant reminder to our member of the reason for our commitment of time and resources in our past, at the present and for the future.



Lions Clubs International is the world's largest service club organization with more than 1.4 million members in approximately 46,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas around the world.

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