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Celebrating 100 years of service

The Perham Lakes Lion's legacy project reads "100th Anniversary of Lions International 1917-2017; Donated by Perham Lakes Lions Club." Kaysey Price/ Perham Focus1 / 3
Pelham Lakes Lions gathered around their new bench in Perham's Turtle Park. The bench was their "legacy project," a way for the group to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Lions Clubs International. Kaysey Price/Perham Focus2 / 3
Melvin Jones, the founder of Lions International. Submitted Photo3 / 3

After 100 years of service, members of the Lions Clubs International celebrated their centennial the only way they knew how: with more service. They tasked their clubs with creating a community "legacy project," and the Perham Lakes Lions delivered with a bench in Perham's city park.

The project had to complete three tasks: create more visibility for the club in communities, provide a gift to the community, and make a community impact--and the engraved bench fit all three tasks perfectly.

"It's just a neat thing that we hope will last," said Pat Hendrickx, Secretary and Treasurer of the Perham Lakes Lions.

Where it all began

One hundred years ago, an insurance agent named Melvin Jones, who was living a successful life thanks to a successful insurance business, began to wonder what the impact would be if he and his fellow successful businessmen were to put their talents to work building their community.

With that curiosity and drive, Jones invited fellow men's clubs members to join him, thus laying the groundwork for the Lions Clubs International in Chicago, Illinois, on June 7, 1917.

Under the guiding principle of Jones' personal motto, "You can't get very far until you start doing something for somebody else," the club flourished.

Today, Lions Clubs International has 46,713 clubs in 210 countries, and Perham happens to be home to two of them.

The Perham Lakes Lions is the club responsible for the Lions legacy bench, and they are also celebrating the 20th anniversary of their charter this year.

Looking back, they've made quite the impact.

Working with foundations like the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank, Minnesota Lions Diabetes Foundation, Can Do Canines, the Lions focus their community service around improving eyesight, as well as many other causes.

They are responsible for two vision testing machines used for youth outreach in the community, and they also put on an annual poster contest as well as many other fundraisers, like their food trailer they work during Crazy Days and sports gatherings.

"We do a lot of service activities," said Hendrickx, rattling off one after another.

They put on tours for the senior citizens in the community and do candy bags for kids at Christmas time. They help serve refreshments to residents and their family members at the nursing home, and the list goes on, as they raise money for their causes and various scholarships for high school graduates.

But they aren't in it for the bragging rights or the money, being that their service goes unpaid.

"Everything we bring in goes back into the community--or to a service," says Hendrickx.

That's what the new bench represents: one more service (of many). It's a place to rest, a place for folks to relax and enjoy the park and, like some have already discovered, a place to sit and catch up with friends and neighbors.