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Eureka Lions History

The International Lions Club is 100 years old; the Eureka Lions is 67 years old.

In 1917, Melvin Jones, a 38-year-old Chicago business leader, told members of his local business club they should reach beyond business issues and address the betterment of their communities and the world.  His personal code – "You can't get very far until you start doing something for somebody else" – became a guiding principle for public-spirited people the world over.

Within three years, Lions became an international organization establishing the first club in Canada. Mexico followed in 1927. In the 1950s and 1960s international growth accelerated, with new clubs in Europe, Asia and Africa.   The International Lions Club, founded to serve the community, turns 100 years old and Eureka Lions Club turns 67 years old and reflects on its impact in the Eureka community.

The Eureka Lions Club was born on November 1, 1950.  At 9:00am Lion Clarence DenHerder,  a special representative of Lions International, Lion Bill Bailey of the Kirkwood Lions club and Duke Bailey assistant Eureka postmaster met in front of the Eureka post office (now Joe Boccardi’s Ristorante) to discuss the possibility of forming a Lions Club in Eureka.  They were soon joined by Harry Shanight, Morgan Selvidge, Dr. Carl Beckmeyer, and Dr. I.E. Drewel.  By 5:00 pm that day 10 more men were added to the organizations list of new members.  After 2 organizational meeting held at Truitt Brothers Café the formal Charter night was held on December 13, 1950 at Steiney’s Inn with 30 charter members.   The first officers of the new Eureka Lions club were; Harry Shanight, President, Howard Ayres, 1st VP, Morgan Selvidge, 2nd VP, Vernon Keil, 3rd VP, Warren Bailey Secretary and Robert Stanton, Treasurer.

The Eureka Lions Club is well known for its fund raising activities in Eureka.  The very first fund raiser for the new Eureka Lions Club was a “Womanless Wedding”, a comedy in two acts where all characters were played by Lions Club members, held at the Eureka high school in June 1951. Since then several traditional fund raising events have been held in Eureka.  Beginning in the spring of 1952, the first May Queen contest was held, where the club would split up into 4-5 teams and select a young woman to be their candidate.  Each team would raise money by holding several events, especially BBQ’s.  The winning Queen would receive a scholarship.  The very first May Queen was Betty Ann Wallach.  This concept continues today with the annual Lions BBQ starting the first Friday after Easter and running for 4 weekends.  Proceeds from these BBQ’s fund the annual Lions scholarship program, giving $5,000 each to 2 Eureka High School seniors.

Another long tradition is the Eureka Lions Club free swimming program.  The Lions club began providing free swimming lessons to Eureka youth between the ages of 7 to 12 in 1954.  Today, sixty three years later the Eureka Lions Club continues this free swimming program for our youth.

Current annual Eureka Lions Club events include their upcoming 26th annual bowling tournament and their 13th annual RUN FOR SIGHT.  New traditions for the Eureka Lions Club are on the horizon, such as the third annual golf tournament this coming June and the second annual Trivia night with a date to be determined.  Some of what the Eureka Lions Club has done is donate money to build the balls fields what is now Lions Park, built a pavilion in Legion Park named after 2 charter members now called the Truitt Pavilion, built in conjunction with the city and local business (then given to the city) the BBQ building located at the “spur”. 

Over these 67 years the Eureka Lions Cub has raised and given away hundreds of thousands of dollars.  All the money raised goes right back into the community or local charities.  In times of local disasters, the Lions have given $10,000 for relief in the 1982 Times Beach flood, and $15,000 toward relief in the December 2015 Eureka flood.  The Eureka Lions Club has annual giving to charities such as the Missouri School for The Blind, JDRF, Delta Gamma, Missouri Eye Research, St. Vincent de Paul, Ronald McDonald Mobile Eye Care, Eureka Food pantry, supplies to our troops overseas, and local eye care needs of our residents.

The name LIONS was not selected at random, neither was it a coined name.  From time immemorial, the lion has been the symbol of all that was good and because of the symbolism that name was chosen.  Four outstanding qualities – Courage, Strength, Activity and Fidelity – had largely to do with the adoption of the name.  The last mentioned of these qualities, Fidelity, has a deep and peculiar significance for all Lions.  The lion symbol has been a symbol of Fidelity through the ages and among all nations, ancient and modern.  It stands for loyalty to a friend, loyalty to a principle, loyalty to a duty, loyalty to a trust.


The Lions emblem consists of a gold letter "L" on a circular area.  Bordering this is a circular area with two Lion profiles facing away from the center.  The word "Lions" appears at the top and "International" at the bottom.  The Lions face both past and future – showing both pride of heritage and confidence in the future.  The name Lions stands not only for fraternity, good fellowship, strength of character and purpose, but above all, its combination of L-I-O-N-S heralds to the country the true meaning of citizenship: LIBERTY, INTELLIGENCE, OUR NATION'S SAFETY.


In 1925, Helen Keller attended the Lions Clubs International Convention and challenged Lions to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness."  The Lions accepted her challenge and have worked tirelessly to aid the blind and visually impaired  including sight programs aimed at preventable blindness.


Today 100 years later, Lions Clubs International is the world's largest service club organization with 46,000 clubs and 1.4+ million members.  Members do whatever is needed to help their local communities.   


"It's such an honor to be the President of the Eureka Lions Club, and this 100th year of Lions makes it even more special.  Lion’s members worldwide do so much good for the visually impaired, and this group of guys is definitely right at the top.  Our club fundraising activities are done with enthusiasm because we know how much the money we raise is going to directly benefit the members of our community.  Our BBQ's start the weekend after Easter, and all 100% of the proceeds donated to Groups and Charites, so I encourage everyone to come on out for some great food and even greater cause!"  Eureka Lions Club president, Steve Parker.

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