50 years of service

Maple Grove Lions celebrate milestone

The Maple Grove Lions Club hits a big milestone Tuesday, March 5. This year the club marks its 50th anniversary. March 5th is also the group’s monthly dinner meeting, which will be a dinner anniversary banquet.

Maple Grove City Council and Lions Club member Phil Leith said, “That is the exact day we were chartered 50 years ago.”

The group has 69 members currently, with at least two more people interested in joining. Ages of current members range from 27 to 90-something. The club originally started with 30 members.

Jan Cariveau, Maple Grove Lions member and former 5M5 District Governor Lion, said the group back in 1963 needed at least 30 members to start up the local club. She said the group was started by former Mayor Dick Riemer, Warren Anderson and a few others. “They were all council members that started the group,” she said. This included Mayor Riemer and three councilmen for the Village of Maple Grove.

Warren Anderson is an original charter member of the Maple Grove Lions Club. He said, “The original Lions group was an enthusiastic group wanting to serve the community. I am the last surviving charter member.”

Anderson went on to say the goal of the group was to serve and be involved in all facets of the community, civic, social, educational and personal if needed. The families were involved in many of the events going on in the village.

The Lions subsidized the “Maple Grove Watchman,” a newspaper put out monthly to everyone in the community to chronicle the events of interest, and to keep the people of the village informed as to what really was going on. This was a rebirth of a paper christened with the same name as one which flourished for some time in 1858. At that time not everyone received the Osseo-Maple Grove Press.

Anderson said, “I would describe the Maple Grove Lions as a part of the Worlds Largest Service Club which has programs serving, inspiring and impacting everyone in the community. Where can you do more good, have such satisfying and rewarding volunteerism, network, serve and have fun? It is one of the things I am most proud to say — I am a Lion.”

The Club has provided many things to the city and residents of Maple Grove over the years since 1963. Leith said the group has raised millions of dollars to support area schools, which include programs and scholarships for students, city and community organizations and individuals in need.

Leith said the club has helped kids get glasses and hearing aids that have been unable to afford them.

Cariveau added, “These students go to their school nurse because they are in need of glasses but can’t afford them. We pay for the eye exam and up to a certain amount of the cost of the eye glasses.”

Lions Plaza outside the Maple Grove Community Center was paid for and then donated by the Maple Grove Lions to the city. This includes the pavilion, children’s playground and marquee sign for the community center.

“We also purchased defibrillators for every police car in the city,” Leith said.

The Club has also helped with other police purchases as well as the Maple Grove Fire Department. This includes getting the fire department inferred glasses to help firefighters see things during fires, as well as paying for gear for belts for the Police Explorers.

The Lions Club has also supported charitable and community organizations and events including: Maple Grove Days, Maple Grove Ambassadors, Maple Grove Half Marathon and Triathlon, District 279 Foundation, CROSS and Minnesota Eye Bank.

One of the Club’s biggest fund raising events is the Christmas Baskets, in which they work with the Maple Grove Firefighters Relief Association and a local Rainbow Foods.

“We work together to give 150 baskets of food to need people in the community,” Cariveau said. “Typically we give away between $16,000 and $20,000 in food. These 150 families each receive four boxes of food, which is enough food for four weeks.”

She went on to explain that all the fire trucks have to moved out of one of the Maple Grove Fire Stations so the boxes can each be filled with foods, including frozen meats. All the boxes are  packed and loaded on vehicles of those picking up the donations between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.

“We’ve been doing this for 31 years every December,” Cariveau said.

The marathon is “gigantic” according to Cariveau. “We can only have 1,200 runners, but every year we have to turn people away because we’re full.”

Besides some of the big events, the Maple Grove Lions use pull tabs, gambling, waffle breakfasts and even a craft show.

Anderson said, “The pancake breakfast was always a family event and a community affair where kids who were off to college came back to see their friends. I think the events which served all the community, such as parade participation, holiday food baskets, marathons and golf tournaments, was and is very important.”

Cariveau said in November the Lions host a craft show at the community center, which they have been doing for the past 15 years. “Of all the proceeds from the craft show, we donate half to the Maple Grove Senior group at the community center,” she said. “This money helps the group maintain the senior programs and equipment it uses.”

Don’t forget the big Lions Corn Feed during Maple Grove Days every July.

Cariveau said the Lion’s don’t typically keep records of exact money amounts given back to the community, but estimates that the Lions Club gives back $500,000 to the community every year.

The Maple Grove Lions Club was also honored during the Feb. 19 Maple Grove City Council meeting. The city proclaimed March 2013 as Maple Grove Lions month in recognition of their 50 years of service to the Maple Grove community.

Maple Grove Lions Current President Ken Kumpula said, “On behalf of the Lions Club, I want to thank the city council for your recognition of 50 years of service and to 50 more.”

Cariveau said the group has fun. “The most powerful thing about our group is that we all have such respect for each other,” she said. “Everyone is just as important has everyone else. That’s why we are so successful of a club.”

Anderson said the group today is still as enthusiastic, creative and willing to serve and have fun.

Membership in the Maple Grove Lions is open by invitation to all service-minded men and women, age 18 and older. The club’s membership is comprised of people from all walks of life and of diverse backgrounds, united with one common goal — everyone is ready to serve the Maple Grove Community. The Maple Grove Lions meet the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 7 p.m. Visit its website atmaplegrovelions.org for more information.

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