The Lions Club of Mackinaw City is indeed “Alive and Well”! Our club can easily be categorized in a few simple words: growing, dedicated, energetic, care giving, and friendly! The past four years has generated a lot of valleys, actually canyons, and mountain peaks for our club. Instead of succumbing to the canyons and giving up, the members of our organization bonded together and started climbing up the canyon walls one rock at a time - we are now in the process of climbing up the mountain. Looking back it is easy to see that those hard times were actually a blessing for us – it made us look deep into ourselves to figure out who we were and just exactly who we wanted to be. We came out a much stronger and united organization.
This article is intended to give a brief description of our club. It would be much simpler to just write an article explaining all the great things we do. Such an article would, however, not even get close to explaining who we are and the dedication and commitment our members have made to make our club what it is today.
We were chartered September 16, 1947 and are proud to say we still have two very active charter members, Lion Tom Alexander and Lion Ken Teysen. We have gone thru a cycle of having over 50 members to a recent time when we were 34. Five members of our club have passed away the past two years and they are greatly missed, however, even though we lost those five members we have grown to now having 41 members. Our club has begun a tradition in which we all wear our vests to a deceased funeral, sit as a group in the front pews, ring “The Lions Bell” for the deceased, pick out a Lion to give a brief eulogy, and leave the church first to create a tunnel for the other mourners to pass through. This may seem to be weird information for such as article as this but this who we are. This helps explain our commitment to the organization and each other. We believe this gesture is seen by others in the community and feel it helps bringing in new members.
Our club has gone through the stage of being “rich and lazy” and “poor and hardworking”. Our early Lions had the foresight to purchase a dozen viewfinders in the 1950’s and place them in strategic locations around the lakefront so visitors could watch the Mackinac Bridge being built. These viewfinders brought in a ton of money and the club purchased land and built a building. Yes – we do own a building. We relied heavily on the income from these viewfinders for years and became complacent. Yes, we did have our annual Pancake Suppers, White Cane sales, mint sales, and other activities but these other activities did not bring in much money – we are a very small community (about 850) for most of the year when the tourists are not in town – and the income from the viewfinders kept declining. People started coming to Mackinaw City with binoculars and telescopic cameras so the viewfinders took a big hit. And, so did we!! We rented the building to the Cheboygan Council on Aging for their senior meals and had our meetings at a local restaurant for a number of years. About three years ago the seniors left our building and moved to another location. All of a sudden we were left with a loss of revenue from the lease on the building and combined with the loss of revenue from the viewfinders and minimal income from our projects we were faced with a major financial crisis!! We still had that building to contend with (insurance and upkeep) and our projects to support – but we had no money! One of the projects our club has had since its inception is to host the annual athletic banquet for our school’s athletics. Our money situation was so bad we had to ask each Lion to write a check for $30 out of their pocket to fund the athletic banquet. We kept getting requests from the District and State to help fund activities – but we had no money. Our money situation got so bad our Board voted in January 2008 to freeze all outgoing money until May 1st. We vigorously discussed selling our building and property, and even vigorously discussed disbanding The Lions Club of Mackinaw City. This information may seem trivial to some of you reading this article, however, it was at that time we were laying on the floor of “the canyon”. It is important because there are many Lions Clubs out there facing the same problems today that we have come through. You can choose to either take the easy way and “give up” or take the hard way and “claw your way back”.  Our club can promise you it will be a defining moment in your organization!! If you choose the hard way you will come out stronger and the members of your club will really know what it means to “be a Lion”!!!
Well, as you assume by now – we chose the hard way!! We did not disband and we did not sell the property. Yes, we do indeed still have a “building” and realize it is taboo for Lions Clubs to own “a building” – that was also discussed vigorously!! We had many Board meetings and regular meetings during the months of January – May 2008 that frankly “got pretty heated” – but cool heads always prevailed!! We did a lot of brainstorming to come up with additional fund raisers and began to hear rumors the seniors wanted to come back to our “building” for their meals – the building is now named “The Lion Dan Russell Building”. The seniors eventually split from Cheboygan Council on Aging to form their own organization now called Wawatam Area Seniors, Inc. and leased our building, at a very low cost, to serve senior meals. We are proud to announce that one of our major projects now is to help the seniors succeed in their endeavor. We have purchased a new commercial stove (four burners, two ovens, and 36” grill), a new 48” grill for barbequing, a 52” flat screen television, new exhaust fan, and several other items. They now feed between 35 and 70 seniors five days a week!!!! We also added an annual “Soup in a Bread Bowl” supper every fall that generates approximately $2,500 per year, an annual “Rifle Raffle” that generates approximately $5,000 per year, parking for the annual Mackinac Bridge walk on Labor Day generating approximately $4,000 per year, and still maintain our viewfinders throughout town and have our traditional pancake supper and other fund raisers. We now generate approximately $16,000 in revenue each year! Not a bad turn around for such a short time!! Make no mistake – this took a lot of effort from every single Lion in our organization. No one was left out!! No names can be mentioned because, simply, no one or two individuals can take credit – it was the entire club’s effort. Each and every one of us in The Lions Club of Mackinaw City found out what it means to “be a Lion”!!   Our club has transformed from being a club of “plate watchers” (those who stare at their plates when asked to raise their hand to help) to a club of individuals willing to chip in whenever possible. Question: Are you a “plate watcher”??? If you are, maybe it’s time you look up instead and raise your hand!!!
Some of the projects The Lions Club of Mackinaw City has supported this past year include the athletic banquet, Wawatam Area Seniors, Inc., Halloween party for the city’s youth on Oct. 31st, the local food bank, eyeglasses for individuals in the area, collection of eyeglasses, a senior party after graduation, $3,500 in scholarships per year, an annual class trip to Washington D.C. for our school’s juniors, SARM (a local youth ministry), Leader Dog School, Eye Research/Michigan Eye Bank, Sightfirst II, Welcome Home, Lions All-State Band, money for individuals in-need in the community, wheelchairs etc. for those needing help in becoming mobile (both locals and tourists alike take advantage of this – we just purchased an additional four more new wheelchairs for daily check-out or however long they are needed).
The Lions Club of Mackinaw City now meets every second and fourth Wednesday of the month at 6:30 pm at The Lion Dan Russell Building. We take turns doing the cooking and cleaning up after the dinner. The past couple months we have had sirloin steaks, venison/pork burgers, and half-rack of ribs - all cooked on our new grill. We eat well!! Our normal meeting schedule is: 6:00 – 6:30 pm for social time (we maintain a refrigerator in a locked office within the building to hold our beverages), 6:30 – 7:00 for the meal, 7:00 – 7:30 for a program presented by someone in the community to keep us informed, and 7:30 – 8:00 for our regular meeting. The cost of the dinner is always $5.00 and beverages range from $1.00 to $2.00. The extra money raised from the dinner and beverages goes into a fund to pay for our supplies, etc. We always have place mats for our members at the dinners which include the names of every member and the year they joined – and when a new member joins that is the first thing they look for!!!!!! Each and every Lion is welcome, and encouraged, to come for a visit when you are in town – we look forward to Lions from outside visiting our club!!
Our club does not pretend to be any better or worse than any other club – the Lions Toast speaks for itself; “Not above you, Not beneath you, But with you. However, every member of The Lions Club of Mackinaw City is now proud “to be a Lion”!! “Looking into the eyes of adversity” a few years ago has made our club what it is today and has been a major contributor to this article. When you visit Mackinaw City take a minute to stand in silence – you will “Hear The Lions Club of Mackinaw City Roar”!!! The Lions Motto “We Serve” is indeed alive and well in Mackinaw City!!

 Image may contain: text

Lions Clubs International News
Connect with Us Online