Lions anniversary a night to remember for CCHS students, Fellows recipients, more
By any measure, May 23 was a night to remember for the Culver Lions Club.
First, it was a night for the club, celebrating its 69th anniversary, to hearken back to earlier years as the most active and accomplished club in the community for decades running. This was accomplished through a digital slideshow of earlier scenes and commentary by several members.
It was also memorable as several members were lauded either from within the local club, or via prestigious awards by the Lions' visiting District Governor, in addition to a powerful presentation by local students whose recent mission trip was founded by the club.
69 YEARS OF SERVICE
Lion Don Freese, manning the historical Power Point presentation, noted Culver's club was chartered in 1943, 26 years after the Lions Club International was formed, and is today one of 46,000 such clubs worldwide.
Lion Dan Adams quipped when he joined in 1975 and encountered founding members still active 34 years after the club's inception, "I thought, these guys must be old. Now I've been a member for 37 years, so man I'm old!"
Lion Jim Harper, discussing the "absolute shambles" the club's regular meeting spot -- the 1925 Culver train depot -- was in the early 1980s, noted a pen and ink drawing of the depot by Barb Meeker used to raise funds for its renovation has now become the club's emblem.
Recalling the club's District Governors past, Lion Mike Overmyer noted Earl Dean Overmyer had been the first District Governor from the Culver Lions. He also recalled fondly the original "Lions Den," located in the upper level of the building Mike's business, JMC Engineers, today occupies at 110 N. Main Street.
"It was a magnificent place," he said. "It would seat 200 people easily."
Shown were photos of Culver Lions installing Culver's first permanent street signs -- which the club purchased and mounted -- in 1950.
"People from all walks of life were Lions," Overmyer added. "Practically everyone from the (public) school, the bank, the (Culver Military) Academy."
Other memories conveyed through vintage photos included Frank Walaitis and others in one of the club's "womanless weddings," late 1940s boat races, successful local basketball coach Red Sering operating the club's first eye exam machine for children, the club's foreign youth exchange, and the three district governors to emanate from the club: Overmyer in 1956, Art Birk in 2002, and Pat Birk in 2006.
Mike Overmyer also recalled fondly the club's annual Halloween parade through town, led by the high school band. Lion Pat Birk said that tradition ended when someone in the street side crowd threw eggs into the band's instruments.
The club also bid farewell to Wesley United Methodist Church pastor Larry Saunders, who will be leaving Culver in early June, with a certificate of appreciation for his work in Culver.
Noting he wasn't expecting the recognition, Saunders said, "I can't tell you what a positive experience it's been to be part of the Culver community. The Lions has been a phenomenal example of living a life of service, and that shows how we really value our fellow human beings. It says so much about the heart of this community and who you are."
MILLERS THANK THE CLUB
Longtime -- and now former -- Culver business owners Ward and Esther Miller presented the club with a framed print of a painting Esther created of the club's train depot meeting place, a gesture she said was part of thanking the club for an award the Lions bestowed upon the couple back in January. The Millers, who retired to Winona Lake last year, also distributed cards with smaller versions of the print, as well as a brief history of the depot, to everyone in attendance.
FOUR JONES FELLOWS
Lions District Governor Lana Wilson, congratulating the club on its anniversary, presented a pin to club president Barbara Winters, who will leave the post later this summer.
In a surprise move to recipients, Wilson also presented the prestigious Melvin Jones Fellow -- named for the Lions International founder -- to four Culver Lions.
Recipient Dan Adams, joking he's "rarely speechless," explained the club has "done a lot for me in my years of being a member. We talk about what we do for others, but it's what it does for us that's (also) very important."
Second recipient Mike Overmyer, calling the award "humbling" and noting Culver's club has honored him twice in the past (including once as Citizen of the Year), added,
"We have fun when we serve, and what we do is important to this community, so thank you very much."
Third recipient Fred Lintner said it was a "real honor" to be included with Adams and Overmyer. He also recalled his membership in the Lions Club of Rensselaer, Indiana, in the 1960s when, as band director, he marched in the Lions International parade in Chicago.
"It was a great honor to march down Michigan Avenue for the Lions," he noted, "but that doesn't match this honor."
Also awarded the Fellow was Marilyn Kelly, who Wilson said was absent due to being at the hospital with her husband.
Winters noted the honors were due to efforts from the club's board, which made financial contributions to facilitate eligibility.
Past Culver recipients of the Melvin Jones Fellow include David Allen (1997), Leroy Bean (2005), Arthur Birk (1990), Pat Birk (2007), Bill Birk (2008), Robert Cultice (2002), Eldon Davis (2002), Elmer Hahn (1990), Jim Harper (2009), Earl Dean Overmyer (1996), Larry Welsh (2000), and Dennis Westafer (1990).
LOCAL STUDENTS' MEXICO MISSION
Three Culver Community High School students received a warm reception from club members as they described their experiences during a spring break mission trip in March, a journey just under half of which the club helped underwrite (Culver Academies also underwrote part of each student's trip, as did the students themselves).
Justin Croy, Luke Dunfee, and Erin Bau joined several Culver Academies students and faculty spent a week in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, where they built homes for three Mexican families for Habitat for Humanity over the course of a week's stay.
Besides the three CCHS students, Culver Academies students on the trip included Harris Allen, Sarah Boland, Eden Brackenbury, Polo Burguete, Amber Cowell, Dustin Cowell, Katelyn Cutshall, James Jamieson, Sarah Jamieson, Abby Jeffirs, Meadhbh McVeigh, Landrum Neer, Sterling Willman, Rita Zambon, Jingyi Zhao, and Kevin and Abbie Van Horn. Adult chaperones included Neer, Emily Ryman, Tony Guraldi, Carla Hernandez, Susan and Bud and Trace Thews, and Suzie Jamieson.
Croy, a sophomore, said the bungalows in which the group stayed had an ocean view, with Dunfee adding that beating the 98 degree temperatures and humidity was a challenge.
The hardest part of the labor, said Croy, was mixing the concrete by hand on the ground.
"Every day on the way to the worksite, there would be a big cement truck," smiled Dunfee. "We were really wishing they'd go dump it off for us!"
Academies students, said Bau, had collected shoes for the local children, and the American students were paired with Mexican youngsters for games and distribution of the shoes and other items, including candy treats.
"This is the part that made me think the most about what we were doing and what your donations did," said Croy. "Working gets tiresome -- it's hard work. In the back of your mind you're thinking, 'This is good for people.' But when you see the smiles on their faces, it kind of rejuvenates you...it changed everybody's attitude on the trip."
Dunfee said he was touched by seeing the children wearing the shoes and backpacks they received, during the final night's closing ceremonies.
The students also joked about being overseen by heavily armed guards throughout the experience, and taking photos with some of them at the end of the trip. Some excitement took place in student hotel rooms due to a proliferation of gecko lizards in some rooms as well.
Croy recalled Academies wellness director and one of the adult leads on the trip providing the students with journals, topics to write about, and inspirational words.
"When we first started going to meetings at the Alumni building on (the Academies) campus," said Croy of the months leading up to the trip. "I didn't know any of these students. But we all left the trip as family. Every single (person) was very kind, and it was helping the community and Academy come together."
He noted participants had a cookout a few nights prior to the Lions meeting at Neer's house as "kind of a reunion."
All three students thanked the Lions for what Dunfee called "the trip of a lifetime," and Bau singled out Lion Mick Henley, who, having encountered her as an employee of Park N' Shop in Culver, gave her a suitcase for the trip when she didn't have one.
Winters added the club will soon sponsor a youth Lions Club in Culver called Leos, for those 18 and under.