Comm. Foundation-funded sign helps Culver Lions' endeavors, care of historic station

For the few in Culver who haven't yet noticed, the Lions Club's community sign -- on Lake Shore Drive adjacent to the depot-train station the club calls home -- has had a major renovation, and is now completely electrical, with "rotating" messages, the date and time, and a much easier method of text-changing for Mike Overmyer, who operates the new technology.

Lions president Barbara Winters says that seeing the signs in Argos and other are towns around "made me realize that Culver did not have a sign that could do multipule messages. I looked on the internet...and was astounded at the cost. At first it seemed impossible. But then an article in the newspaper about the Marshall County Community Foundation's grant cycle caught my eye."

The sign committee, she says, included Don Freese, Jim Sawhook, Leroy Bean, Dennis Lewandowski, Mike Overmyer, and Winters herself.
The limestone and fieldstone sign Culver knows as its community sign dates back to a suggestion from Lion Jim Bonine in the summer of 2000 that the old sign be replaced. The August 21, 2001, Culver Citizen pictures an almost completed sign, which Winters says was accepted at that time by the Culver town board as a town sign.

In October, the Community Foundation granted the Culver Lions $10,000 (the amount requested) to be used toward cleaning, repairing and updating the Culver Lions Club's community sign to a two-side programmable LED display. Winters, who actually wrote the grant, cites club members Ellen and Don Freese and Kathy Clark for their assistance in preparing the document, which also received letters of support from several area organizations.

On Dec. 5, a crew from Vanadco Signs removed the old sign board and inserted the new. Lions Leroy Bean and Don Burke helped with the electrical work and by noon the sign was operational. On Tuesday Dec. 6th, Jeff Allen of Vanadco taught Lions Mike Overmyer, Barbara Winters, and Leroy Bean how to program the sign. Mike Overmyer is the official programer. On Wednesday Dec. 7th, some trim and finishing touches were installed. The sign was in!

The grant application, notes Winters, reads in part, "The Lions mission statement is:'To create and foster a spirit of understanding amoung all people for humanitarian needs by providing voluntary services through community involvement and international cooperation.' This sign helps to foster this spirit of understanding and its messages will reach out to all who pass by. The sign promotes service clubs and not for profit fundraisers. It helps tourism by raising awareness of events in Culver. It can save lives by posting health alerts.

"What we want to do," she adds, "is provide free community-minded messages. Our primary goal is to let the world know that there is a Hello Gorgeous event, a chili supper with the proceeds going to the Food Pantry, a benefit for a family in need, an Antiquarian event, or information from the Town. For $10, we will post some personal messages such as congratulations for special events, happy birthday messages, welcome home signs, and such."

The alteration of the sign joins several notable improvements in the operation of the depot of late, including the addition of a permanently-mounted overhead digital projector and motorized drop-down screen for speakers, whether at Lions events or simply making use of the building.

"Actually it was embarrassing to have speakers and programs where we had to borrow equipment," Winters explains. "When the idea came to up-date, it was Don Freese who did the research to help the Lions board. We decided we wanted to keep our dollars at home and so Steve Ulery of Live Oak Electric did the wiring and installation with the help of Lions Leroy Bean and Don Burke."

Winters adds some Lions noticed at last summer's corn roast the condition of the roof of the railroad station, and upon investigation realized that, "although the roof was not very old it was in bad condition. That meant we had to go into the savings to put on a new roof. That was a set back to our finances. Fortunately when it came time to pay for the new LED sign, Vanadco gave us a break on the price so that we actually ended up with a fifty-fifty match with the Community Foundation, something we had not expected.

"Remember that the Lions have a full plate of activities and scholarships in place and all of that has to be paid for first! The Lions have a building fund for the maintenance and improvement of the Railroad Station. That was the source of the funds for these projects."
The train station dates back to 1925, when it was erected to replace the original 1880s-era station, which burned in 1920. The Lions Club - working with many area organizations and individuals -- "saved" the station through a fundraising campaign in the early 1980s; since then, the club has called the building home, and continually cared for its upkeep and improvement.