Lions won’t ‘walk away’ from local giving

By on December 25, 2009

Club takes steps to ensure donations despite economy
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Al Lee was at the Elburn Food Pantry in November, dropping off a monetary donation from the Elburn Lions Club. The Thursday pantry’s line was so long that people had to wait an hour to receive bags of food.

“It really reinforced that we (the Lions) are doing the right thing,” said Lee, the club’s treasurer.

By that, Lee meant that the club is working hard to continue its tradition of supporting local charitable causes like the food pantry, to which it has given about $3,200 this year, he said.

Giving has become more challenging, however, as the economic downturn has affected the organization’s budget, like so many others. In addition, the club also requires revenue to maintain and operate Lions Park, at a cost of about $500 per day, Lee said.

A major source of the Lions Club’s revenue has suffered significantly—rental fees from groups that use the facilities for private parties and other events.

“Park rentals have decreased 50 percent in the last three years,” Lee said. “That’s been a big hit.”

As a result of budgetary constraints, the club reduced its charitable giving by nearly 40 percent since 2007, Lee said. From its list of recipients, the club decided to cut from those outside the Kaneland community.

For example, the club this year did not support several organizations it has given to in the past, including LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva and Lazarus House shelter and the Northern Illinois Food Bank in St. Charles.

However, the Lions Club is intent on maintaining its local community giving—awarding college scholarships, hosting free senior dinners, providing vision machines and Ski for Sight park activities for seeing-impaired residents, and giving to the Elburn Food Pantry. These recipients are among those that Lee calls the Lions Club’s “core group,” to which the 80-year-old Elburn organization has an historic commitment.

“We don’t walk away from that,” Lee said.

The Elburn Lions Club also is keeping annual pledges it made to causes with a worldwide impact, such as the Lions International Sight First II, to reduce blindness. Thankfully, this year the Elburn Lions this year received a $4,000 donation from the McCormick Foundation, which it used for the Sight First II pledge, Lee said.

To ensure that it can maintain local funding levels despite the economy, the Elburn Lions Club is taking proactive measures, Lee said. One of those is partnering with Delnor-Community Hospital to hold a raffle this spring to benefit the Delnor Foundation, American Dream Flight, and Lions charities.

The Elburn Lions have supported the American Dream Flight Program for 30 years. The program flies children with cancer to Disney World.

The Elburn Lions typically have a spring raffle, but by partnering with Delnor this year, club members expect to boost awareness in other communities about the club’s causes.

“Hopefully, that will bring a whole new market of people to help the Elburn Lions,” Lee said.
Another move the Elburn Lions made this year to combat its revenue crunch was to sell food at a concession stand every weekend in October at Kuipers Family Farm. Lee said it was work-intensive for volunteers, but worth it. He said the proceeds from the concessions will make up for the loss of at least one corporate event at the park.

“In the big picture, it was profitable for us,” Lee said.

Photo: The Elburn Lions Club recently donated $1,700 to the Elburn Food Pantry. Lions Club Treasurer Al Lee (left) presented the check to food pantry coordinator Rita Burnham. Lee said the donation was possible through the Lions Holiday raffle, one of the many fundraisers the club holds each year to raise money for local charitable causes. Also pictured Ryan Schafernak, a Leo member. Courtesy Photo