By Jane Smith
Special to the Tribune
Elisha (Lash) Field was only 38 years old when he and some friends “heard about people who belonged to Lions and were doing a lot of good for a community.” He liked what he heard. “I wanted to be part of that,” he said. So, he and 20 friends formed the Jamestown Lions Club.
That was in 1948. Now 103 years old, Field is still dedicated to service with the club and was one of the guests of honor at Saturday night’s dinner to commemorate the club’s 65th anniversary. Although his body is not quite as fit as it was 65 years ago, his mind is still alert and he gets along quite well. He is a resident of St. Paul Homes, but tries to make as many club meetings as possible.
Asked what his favorite project or memory of membership in Lions is, he was quick to answer. “I enjoyed them all. We had a lot of big projects,” he said, noting the club “did a lot of things. There’s too many to pick just one.” He did recall among the fundraisers the club had one time was selling pecans.
Presented with a 65-year member pin, Field said, “For 65 years, I have belonged to the Lions Club. I have enjoyed every minute of it, our accomplishments and our friendships.” He expressed appreciation to his fellow club members for all they have done for the Jamestown community.
He was proud of have his picture taken with another senior Lions Club member, Jack Reed, who is 97. It’s believed the Jamestown club is the only one with two members whose ages total 200.
James Cavalerro, immediate past international director of Lions Club International, was keynote speaker for the dinner held at the Jamestown Lions Club Community Center. Cavalerro, raised by a blind grandmother, recalled kneeling by her knee to listen to the radio. Although visually impaired, his grandmother sewed and made pasta.
His uncle was a district governor of a Lions Club and when he was only 7, Cavalerro became aware of what the Lions do. “Service is our product,” he noted, adding members not only do fundraising, but give of themselves to help the community. In the past year, the Jamestown club raised and donated more than $80,000. In its 65 years of service, estimates are it has donated in excess of $1 million to community projects.
Each year, Lions Club has a theme for the district. “It’s a World of Service” is this year’s theme, which involves encouraging youth, sharing services with the blind, relief help and protecting the environment. The coming year’s theme will be “Follow Your Dream.”
Looking out over those in attendance, Cavalerro said, “One-hundred-and-10 people gathered to celebrate 65 years. What an honor; what a privilege.”
Today, the Lions have 1.4 million members in 206 countries. Clubs are noted for their help in providing financial support for those with visual impairment, be it for eye glasses or operations. However, they’ve expanded into other areas, including research of diabetes. At the local level, Jamestown has provided assistance with numerous community projects as well as providing baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas to those less fortunate.
Cavalerro encouraged members to “look for other people to become members. All you need to do is just ask them.” He also encouraged them to wear their Lions pin as a witness to others. “Don’t just wear me to the Lions Club meeting,” he said speaking on behalf of the emblem. “Wear me every time you get a chance.”
Steve deKramer, treasurer and committee chairman for the anniversary dinner, presented a brief history of the club. After it was formed in 1948, “it became active real fast,” he said. For example, Pymatuning Joint Fair need a rest shelter; Lions Club provided one. Pymatuning Joint Area High school needed a first aid room; Lions Club provided it.
As time went on, in 1951 the Korean War was going on and the club provided newspaper subscriptions for all the local servicemen and provided landscaping for the school yards.
The next year, it purchased athletic equipment for children at St. Paul’s Orphanage. The work continued with new projects added each year. By 1962, the Lions were providing scholarships to students. In 1969, they joined forces with the Greenville club to form an eye bank. Scanning the list of projects over the years, deKramer noted how involved the club has been in working to serve the community and help meet its needs.
“Our heart is here. We help,” he concluded.
Robert Blake, 14F district governor, spoke briefly. A member of the Jamestown Club, he noted how proud he is to represent the club at the district level.
A number of special awards was presented, including a Melvin Jones Fellowship to deKramer for outstanding service, a Progressive Melvin Jones Award went to Ralph Dorman, and a life membership pin was given to George Donner.
Jamestown Mayor Esther McClimans proclaimed Saturday as Lions Appreciation Day and expressed appreciation to the club for renovating the community center. She said without the club’s help, it would have been torn down.