Lions in Phelps
By Don Tiffany


The Phelps Lions Club was established by the work of Rollin Hood, Phelps and the Lions Deputy District Governor, George Wright, Geneva. The charter is dated October 24, 1956 but the inauguration ceremonies were held at the Phelps Hotel on December 12, 1956 under the sponsorship of the Lions Clubs from Rushville and Geneva. There are 34 members listed on the charter: Leon Appleman, Thomas Baer, Wells Bliven, Jordan Bruzee, Oliver Cook, Donald Coston*, Paul Crouch, Daniel Decker, Eugene Dhalle, Herman Donk, Carl Goodman, Clarence Guard, Dennis Hicks, Richard Holmes, Rollin Hood, John Howe, Everett LaCross, Edgar Larner, James Maline, Lawrence Maslyn, Joseph Rishel, Joseph Rubery, John Ruthven, William Sheehan, Austin Sommers, John Sweeney*, Spencer Taylor, L.Woodrow Travis, Leonard VanElyakken, Lee Walters, George Whitaker, Arlon Wilbur, Norman Williamson, Asher Young.
      *Donald Coston and John Sweeney are the only 2 active members left of the original 34.

The International Association of Lions Clubs began in the mind of Melvin Jones, a Chicago insurance man, who wondered why local business clubs - he was a member of one - could not expand their horizons from purely business concerns to the betterment of their communities and even the world. Jones' organization, the Business Circle of Chicago, authorized him to explore his concept with other similar organizations in the United States. Through his efforts 12 men met in Chicago on June 17, 1917. Putting their loyalty to their own local clubs they voted to form the Association of Lions Clubs and called for a national convention in Dallas, Texas in October of that year.


Thirty-six delegates representing twenty-two clubs from nine states approved the Lions Club designation. They elected Dr. William P. Woods, Indiana as their first president and founder. Melvin Jones was named acting secretary. Jones was active in Lionism until his death in 1961. A constitution and by-laws were adopted, the official colors of purple and gold were approved and work begun on the objectives and a code of ethics for this new, enthusiastic and dynamic organization. One of the tenets approved read, "No Club shall hold out the financial betterment of its members as its object."

Soon clubs were being formed throughout the U.S. and the association became "international" when a Lions Club was established in Windsor, Ontario, Canada in 1920. Other clubs were later formed in China, Mexico and Cuba. By 1927 the membership was 60,000 in 1183 clubs. A club was formed in Panama in 1935 and in 1948 clubs were chartered in Sweden, Switzerland and France. The first club in Japan was established in 1952.

The International Association of Lions Clubs, or Lions International, is the largest service organization in the world with over 1.4 million members in more than 43,300 clubs in 714 districts covering 182 countries and geographic areas.

Lions are noted for their work in sight conservation. Lions International took up sight conservation as their major goal after a speech given by Helen Keller at their convention in Cedar Point, Ohio in 1925. At that convention Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become "Knights of the Blind", a challenge that has been pursued ever since. Lions sponsor free eye screening programs using mobile eye clinic and eye surgery camps where cataract surgeries are performed at no charge to those who can't afford this type of care. In India alone, over 300,000 cataract surgeries have been performed. Lions have raised over $148,600,000 all over the world to help cure or prevent 40,000,000 cases of blindness.

Phelps Lions originally met in the Phelps Hotel but over the years have held their meetings in various places such as the York Inn and the restaurant at Five Points. The club is currently meeting at the Phelps Hotel. From a local view, the Phelps Lions are known for their annual broom sales and community birthday calendars but the local Lions have done much more in the past 50 years. They host a Palm Sunday breakfast. They have provided local financial assistance for eye care and glasses and maintain eyeglass collection boxes to furnish reading glasses to those in need. They have sponsored glaucoma and hearing clinics. Phelps Lions have organized and marshaled the annual Sauerkraut Parade. Members have provided Christmas food and fruit baskets to the needy each year. The club has held a ziti dinner at the American Legion for the past few years to raise money for the Phelps Historical Society and Phelps Community Library. They have sponsored Little League and girls' softball teams.

The emblem of Lions International consists of a gold letter 'L' on a circular field of purple. The edge of this purple field is surrounded by a gold edge with a lion in profile on each side facing away from the center. The word 'Lions' appears at the top and 'International' at the bottom. Symbolically, the lions face both the past and the future. The Lions' motto is "WE SERVE" and the slogan is Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nation's Safety (LIONS).

LIONS CODE OF ETHICS: TO SHOW my faith in the worthiness of my vocation by industrious application to the end that I may merit a reputation for quality of service. TO SEEK success and demand all fair remuneration or profit as my just due, but to accept no profit or success at the price of my own self-respect lost because of unfair advantage taken or because of questionable acts on my part. TO REMEMBER that in building up my business it is not necessary to tear down another's; to be loyal to my clients or customer and true to myself. WHENEVER a doubt arises as to the right or ethics of my position or action towards others, to resolve such doubts against myself. TO HOLD friendship as an end and not a means. To hold that true friendship exists not on account of the service performed by one another, but that true friendship demands nothing but accepts service in the spirit in which it is given. ALWAYS to bear in mind my obligations as a citizen to my nation, my state, and my community, as to give them my unswerving loyalty in word, act, and deed. To give them freely of my time, labor and means. TO AID others by giving my sympathy to those in distress, my aid to the weak, and my substance to the needy. TO BE CAREFUL with my criticism and liberal with my praise; to build up and not destroy.

Originally the Lions Club was exclusively male, then the ladies were allowed to belong and were called "Lionesses", now the men and women share equally all the benefits and offices of Lions International.

The Phelps Lions Club has had its ups and downs over the past 49 years with membership reaching as low as five. It now has fifteen members: Gary Boisseau, Kim Boisseau, Sara Bruzee, Donald Coston, Jean Coston, Terry Featherly, Diana Featherly, Dennis Hazlett, David Hicks, Dan Moracco, Karen Moracco, Roy Rolland, John Sweeney, Phil Sweeney and Scott Sweet.

Dan Moracco is the president this year, 2005. The club is busy with their many projects and also selling 'PHELPSOPOLY', a project to help the Village of Phelps Sesquicentennial Project.

At the beginning of every meeting a toast is given: "Not above you -- not below you -- but with you" - pretty typical of the Phelps Lions Club.

Thanks to Don & Jean Coston, John Sweeney and Dave Hicks.


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