Local Lions Club marks 55 years
WORTHINGTON -- It may not be the longest-standing service organization in Worthington, but the local Lions Club has made a long-lasting imprint on the community through its support of local projects, programs and collection of eye glasses to aid the needy.
The Worthington Lions will mark its 55th anniversary in March, having formed after the local Sertoma Club dissolved in the mid-1950s. Kiwanis already had a strong membership in the community, but a few individuals thought Worthington needed another option for business and community leaders.
Herold Marske was new to town back then, having started work in the school district in July 1955. He attended the Lions organizational meeting on March 12, 1956, at the Gobbler Café -- then located on 10th Street in downtown Worthington -- and became one of 27 charter members.
Herold is the only original member still active in the Worthington Lions, which now boasts a membership of 25 -- down considerably from the 100 members the club had back in its heyday.
Several years ago, the Lions and the Lioness group -- open to female members -- merged, and Herold's wife, Monica, was the only one to make the transition. Today, she is among about half a dozen women serving in the Worthington Lions. Their president is Sandy Dophiede, who was elected to her second consecutive term last July.
Monica joined the Lioness group when it formed in 1976, and boasts a perfect attendance record for the last 35 years, while Herold has a perfect attendance record of 55 years in the Worthington Lions.
Together, the Marskes contribute numerous hours to volunteer projects and have represented the community in Lions events on a national and international scale. Herold attended his first Lions Convention in 1959 in Canada, and has since traveled to international conventions in Chicago, Ill., Miami, Fla., Dallas, Texas, Las Vegas, Nev., and Tokyo, Japan. In all, he's attended 46 district, 5M (Minnesota, Manitoba and northwest Ontario) and international conventions.
When Herold joined the Lions, the club had already focused its mission on sight. Helen Keller was a speaker at one of the Lions' first national conventions, and the membership decided then to do what they could to aid people with vision impairments and vision loss.
"We collect used glasses, buy glasses for kids and support the leader dog programs," Marske said. "In 1959, we established our own Eye Bank at the University of Minnesota."
Through his role in the school, Herold was instrumental in giving names to the Lions Club so they could purchase eyeglasses for local kids who might otherwise not have been able to afford them.
The Lions have 16 eyeglass collection boxes around town, including at several banks, the eye clinics and in some churches. Herold is tasked with picking them up, doing an initial sort and then delivering them to a larger collection site in Jackson. The donations will eventually go to Sauk Center, and then to Wisconsin, where they are categorized, packaged and shipped to Third World countries.
"I've seen tapes (of glasses being distributed)," Herold said. "You can't believe these people -- they cry when they get them."
In 2010, the Worthington Lions collected nearly 2,000 pairs of donated eyeglasses.
"To me, Lions is sight -- it really is," said Herold, whose own mother lived with blindness for 12 years.
The Worthington Lions club has remained active even as other Lions clubs in the area have dissolved. In Nobles County, Worthington, Rushmore and Wilmont still have a local Lions Club.
In Worthington, the Lions Club meets the second Monday of each month at the Pizza Ranch. The Marskes said they are always looking for more members.
"We're looking for anyone who is a good citizen," said Herold. "We want to get some young people in there ... and we'd like to get people from businesses."
The club has two main fundraisers -- its mint sales and its popcorn and cotton candy machine, which can often be found at various events in the community. They set up their booth for the annual International Festival, Windsurfing Regatta, and Turkey Day, in addition to having a presence in the mall during the holidays, and at Sanford Medical Center Worthington two or three times per year.
Funds raised through sales are used to help sponsor the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank, the Hearing Foundation, hearing and service dogs, leader dogs, Minnesota Lions Diabetes project and several local events including Christmas baskets, child safety workbooks for the police department, the backpack program and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, to name a few.
For more information or to become involved in the Worthington Lions, contact Sandy Dophiede at 376-4364.