McIntosh Lions to celebrate 60 years of service
Published: Monday, February 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 11:02 p.m.
MCINTOSH - In 1949, a thirsty Bill Dickson walked into the drugstore looking for a cherry Coca-Cola. A simple errand and a conversation turned into a bigger quest.
He and others were urged to create a men's civic organization that could contend with the volunteer work of women's groups in the area.
"I'll do my best," Dickson said then to his friend, the pharmacist.
It has been nearly 60 years since Dickson and others established the McIntosh Lions Club, an organization that has given the poor eyeglasses, donated resources to create military memorials and given money to local schools.
Most recently, the club raised hundreds of dollars to assist earthquake victims in Haiti.
That's a lot of benevolent deeds for the club's members, currently 30 people in a town whose population has not exceeded much more than 500.
"We're a small club, but we do a lot of good with the money we have," Dickson said.
Monday at 6:30 p.m., members of the club will celebrate six decades of community service and friendship during a gathering at the McIntosh United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall.
Sometimes their gatherings are bittersweet.
Just two weeks ago, club members rushed to aid an older couple whose mobile home had burned down.
"They lost everything," said longtime member Jack Williams. "It could have been my family, my home that burned ... I would hope that people would step up."
Members opened a bank account so the community could donate funds to help the couple rebuild their lives, said Williams.
And, hours after the fire, members were able to get the couple to an eye doctor for two new pairs of glasses. Theirs had been destroyed.
This is not the first time the club has helped people to see.
Williams, who joined the group in 1965, said members raised funds for surgery for a local girl who had severely crossed-eyes.
Since the organization's inception in the early 20th century, Lions Club International has helped millions worldwide reach better vision.
Members have helped treat river blindness in 15 countries, screened more than 150,000 Special Olympics athletes for eye conditions and recycled about 3 million pairs of eyeglasses, according to figures on the organization's Web site.
McIntosh resident Beverly Dodder said the work of the club may not have been life saving as applied to her own life, but it does make each year easier when she and others organize the town's 1890s Festival, an event that brings in thousands of visitors.
"It's hotter than the devil that time of year," said Dodder, the festival's coordinator, mostly in reaction to the heavy lifting that Lions Club members, most of whom are retired, do when building and tearing down booths.
There were other hot days, as club members recalled passing out boxed chicken lunches in years past to Gator football fans on their way north.
It was hot, too, when in 1955 members donned special clothing as actors in the one-time performance of the play "A Womanless Wedding," said Dickson, who still laughs about the performance for the community.
For Dodder, it's the memories that club members have created for children and for their parents, when they were children, too.
"The look on her face, the pure wonder and excitement of it," Dodder says of her grandchild's reaction to receiving an award during the annual McIntosh Lions Club Fourth of July celebration.
No child goes home without a ribbon in the bike-decorating contest.
"They make it special for our kids," she said.
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