The Vinton Breakfast Lions Club held its annual awards dinner and installed new officers for 2017-2018 at the Vinton War Memorial on August 3.
Lion President Hal Mabe welcomed his fellow Lions, their spouses, and guests to the annual event.
The Vinton Breakfast Lions Club was established 33 years ago. The club is well known locally for its traditional Pancake Breakfast at the VFW on Vinton Fall Festival Day and their Spaghetti Dinner on the evening of the Vinton Christmas parade. These are two of the fundraisers which allow the Breakfast Lions to complete a multitude of community service projects throughout the year. Where there is a need in the community and beyond, they are always there to serve and fill the gap.
Each year the Breakfast Lions award three $1,000 scholarships to William Byrd students in the memory of beloved Vintonite Wallace Cundiff. They take 18-20 needy elementary school children from the Vinton area on a Christmas shopping trip for clothes and toys. They support the Roanoke Area Swim Team.
Members fund eye exams, eye surgery, and eyeglasses for area children and adults in need, along with sight research and conservation. They purchase smoke detectors to be distributed to Vinton area citizens by the Vinton Fire and EMS department. They provide local elementary school students with extra clothing, school supplies, snacks and refreshments, and assist with school projects. They support the Lions Quest Training Program for students– a structured approach to prevent risky behaviors while cultivating positive social behaviors.
Breakfast Lions for several years have read to students at Herman L. Horn on Dr. Seuss Day and participated in Vinton’s Senior Expo. They collect and recycle eyeglasses at the Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center in Roanoke and have installed eyeglass collection boxes in Vinton.
Through State and Lions International they support diabetes awareness, the Hearing Foundation of UVA, disaster relief, and the Bland Music Scholarships. They hosted their first Bland Foundation Music Scholarship Competition at Thrasher Memorial this year on February 19. Students ages seven through 18 performed in both vocal and instrumental categories with winner Savannah Amos advancing to the regional competition.
They fund these projects and more by sponsoring the annual pancake breakfast and spaghetti dinner, selling brooms, and participating in White Cane Day to raise funds. Their biggest fundraiser each year is the Draw Down Dinner.
Since March 2015, the Breakfast Lions have spent countless hours rescuing the historic Gladetown Cemetery from overgrowth and debris. The cemetery has at least 126 gravesites, some dating from the 1820s. A Department of Historic Resources study noted that the “Gladetown Cemetery is the only known African American cemetery in Vinton and is an important part of the region’s cultural and social history,” especially because many of the tombstones were engraved by hand by craftsman Albert Woods.
The cemetery project was the result of a conversation between long-time Gladetown resident Joe Banks and Lion Chris McCarty at the town’s annual Arbor Day observance in 2014 at the nearby Craig Avenue Center.
Banks told McCarty that for many years, men from the community maintained the cemetery. However, many of them are getting up in years or are not in good health and the cemetery quickly was taken over by vines, underbrush, and small trees.
The Breakfast Lions were awarded a plaque for their service to the community at the Gladetown Reunion on August 6. McCarty and Joel Lytton told those gathered for the reunion that they hope the cemetery will be ready for dedication at the next Gladetown Reunion scheduled for August 2019.
The guest speaker at this year’s Breakfast Lions awards dinner was Francis Portillo, from Portland, Ore. She is a senior trainer with Lions Quest and teaches the program both in the United States and internationally. She demonstrated a short lesson from the Lions Quest program, which has been presented to 60 guidance counselors from a number of elementary and middle schools in seven counties around the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia.
Lion Eric Mills, Region 2 Zone Chairman, conducted the induction ceremony for the new officers for the upcoming year: President Hal Mabe, First Vice President Anthony Conner, Second Vice President John Dyer, Secretary Doug Adams, Treasurer Bob Benninger, Tail Twister Chris McCarty, Lion Tamer Keith Lafferty, and Past President Joel Lytton.
Members of the board of directors were recognized at the banquet and include: John Berry, Sam Cundiff, Paul Gensurowsky, Richard Goad, Brad Grose, Warren Huddleston, Galen Conner, Jeff Stovall, Barry Thompson, and Sandra Witmer.
Attendance pins were presented to 19 Lions Club members who have had 100 percent attendance.
Years of service awards were also presented. Len Hale, Tim Greenway, Jack Lipsomb, Chris McCarty, and Jeff Stovall were recognized for 15 years of membership. Ethel Noell has been a member for 25 years, while Sam Cundiff and Joel Lytton have been members for 30 years.
New members of the Breakfast Lions Club, Jeremy Keene and Ryan Chambers, were introduced and inducted by Mabe.
The New Member Sponsor Builder Key was presented to Chris McCarty. This award is presented by the Lions Club International Foundation for recruiting and supporting new members. The Past President’s Award was presented to Joel Lytton, who served as president this past year.
Doug Adams was named “Lion of the Year.” This award is voted on by the membership and goes to the Lion who has done the most outstanding job through the year and shown commitment to Lions’ projects.
John Berry received the prestigious Melvin Jones Fellow award. This is the highest honor that the Lions bestow and represents a member who has made a significant contribution in all four areas of service: sight, work with youth, disaster relief, and humanitarianism. Past Melvin Jones Fellowship Award winners choose new recipients. Names of Melvin Jones Fellows are displayed in the Lions Club International Foundation Room at the International Headquarters. Before moving to Vinton, Berry was a devoted member of the Lions Club in other locations where he has lived with many years of service, “always there when he is needed.”
The Lions organization was founded by Melvin Jones in 1916 in Chicago. It has grown into the world’s largest service club organization with 1.4 members in 46,000 clubs in 210 countries. In 1925, they took on the cause of being “knights to the blind” as a challenge from Helen Keller. It is estimated that Lions Clubs donate approximately $449 million dollars and 76 million volunteer hours each year.
The awards banquet was catered by Country Kitchen.