A new cub in the club

The agenda for Thursday’s monthly meeting of the South Whidbey Lion’s Club was a pretty typical reading: installation of new officers, a visit from the zone chairman, distribution of awards — and a baby shower.

OK, so maybe not everything was a typical Lion day. But you have to make some exceptions when you’re welcoming the first ever Lion cub into the largest service organization in the world.

Sandwiched between the formal Lion introductory announcements and lunch, Lion Elena Rice stood up and showed a crowd of primarily senior citizens a Lions member in the making. Timothy Vladimir Rice, 9 pounds 2 ounces, was born May 21, 2004. On Thursday, Elena Rice announced a new weight of 11 pounds 7 ounces.

“He’s getting so big,” she said.

At the announcement, the room was filled with light applause and confused looking men. When Rice took little Thomas out of his portable bassinet the room was filled with oohs and awws — from men and women alike.

At the meeting, there was a table filled with gifts, purchased through a collection the Lion’s gathered from their own pockets. One by one Rice opened the pastel wrapped boxes — booties, baby wipes, an outfit or two, a bath set, baby wash, little socks and a couple of toys.

“Getting to know all of our members is very important to us as is helping them through any time of need,” said Ed Bennett, Lions member and a past president. “If our members are ill we visit them, if they’re down on their luck we help them out— if they have a baby we throw them a shower.”

Six years ago, Rice came to America from St. Petersberg, Russia, and has been living on Whidbey for the last two years, currently in Coupeville. She joined the Lion’s Club in November, along with friend Donna Wollmuth, simply as “something to do.”

Rice considered the event a warm and unexpected surprise from her group of new friends.

“Before I came to America I had the perception that everyone was for themselves,” she said. “But when I came to the Lions they were not for themselves, they were for everybody else. It made me want to be a part a community such as that.”

As she thanked her fellow Lions, tears began to well in her eyes, and she explained their arrival.

“I’ve never had a baby shower before,” Rice said.

Today, Elena Rice and little Timothy are making history. A couple of decades ago, last week’s meeting would have gone a little differently — there’d be no women in attendance to consider giving a shower for. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Lions Club International became one of the first service organizations to admit women.

“There are still some clubs that don’t allow women and this was a great showing of how we’ve ensured everyone is included,” said current South Whidbey Lions first vice president Maury Hood.

Though Timothy’s too young (well under the required age of 18), South Whidbey president Terry Minton did take into consideration making Rice’s membership a two for one deal, but was thwarted by Lion’s rules.

“Maybe some day,” Minton said.

The South Whidbey Lions Club is just over 50 years old, and currently has 44 members. It is one of the smallest clubs in Lions Multiple District 19 (MD19), which encompasses Washington, British Columbia and Northern Idaho. According to their peers, the South Whidbey club is one of the most inspirational for more reasons than their ability to throw baby showers.

The South Whidbey Lions are the recent recipients of the Club Inspirational Award, one of the highest honors for a club. It is the first club in MD19 to receive the award since it was created in 1940. South Whidbey was in competition with over 600 Lions clubs in their district. Worldwide, there are over 46,000 clubs in 193 countries with 1.4 million members and still growing.

It was an honor club members worked long and hard for, with major projects in recent years including the beautification of Freeland Park, volunteering for Hearts and Hammers, delivering eyeglasses and hearing aids to the Lion’s Bank, hosting a yearly concession booth at the Island County Fair, a famous garage sale with proceeds devoted to high school scholarships, and more volunteer hours than you can count.

“I can’t tell you the number of people who come up to us and contribute saying they wanted to thank us for something the Lions had done for them or a family member,” Minton said.

The SW Lion’s Citizen of the Year, Roy Benson, demonstrated concern, strength and effort on behalf of the community, according to Minton. Lion’s Community Service Award winner, Leland “Mac” McCloskey, “lives by the Lions’ motto ‘We Serve.’” Lion of the Year Bob Davis is the best of the best.

The South Whidbey Lion’s recent garage sale netted $3,700 that will go toward four $1,000 scholarships for high school graduates. Through fundraising efforts for the last fiscal year the South Whidbey Lions raised $8,100 to give back to the community.

“They are very community minded bunch of people who often pay for a lot of things out of their own pocket,” said zone chairman Garry Lutz.

In addition, the club brought home from the Lion’s International Convention a first place award in club letter style and a second place in the book mark competition.

“We’ve always been pretty consistent with awards,” said Lions secretary Chuck Brengle. “But the inspirational award was definitely an honor not to be received lightly.”

In learning that South Whidbey earned three of the four awards given to their multiple district, a member asked Lutz, “What did we fail to do that we didn’t win all four.”

Sounds like they’ve already got their eye on the prize for next year.

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