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Lions celebrate 100 years, but aren't done yet

A community picnic celebrated the achievements of the area's long running club.

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Wadena Lions members gathered for a photo at their 100 year celebration Friday, June 17, 2022, in Tapley Park.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal
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WADENA — A moment 100 years in the making came to fruition on Friday, June 17, as the Wadena Lions celebrated their 100 years as a club with a community picnic in Tapley Park.
The event was put together by co-chairs Ryan Damlo and Wayne Wolden. A large number of Wadena Lions were on hand to assist and celebrate while the Hewitt Lions prepared a feast of a hog, french fries and fixings to serve.
Others caught the fever to serve including area Cub and Boy Scouts assisting with keeping the party clean. The WDC Rhythmettes helped serve drinks.
The event was a time for the club to reflect on the last 100 years and raise money for the future. The meal was free-will donation in an effort to raise money to help pay a pledge the club made to replace an aging playground structure at Tapley Park .
During a short presentation, club president Bob Keppers took a moment to recognize some of their members and the work that they do.

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Rick Johnson, right, with his Lion of the Year award presented by District Governor Jamie Huttunen.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

  • Receiving the Lion of the Year award was Rick Johnson who is still hard at it after 56 years with the club.
  • Bruce Uselman was recognized with the Melvin Jones Award.
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    Bruce Uselman receives the Melvin Jones Award during the Lions picnic Friday, June 17, 2022.
    Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal
  • Paul Hunke's hard work was recognized with the Distinguished Service award.
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    Paul Hunke, left, receives the Distinguished Service Award from District Governor Jamie Huttunen, Friday, June 17, 2022.
    Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal
  • Further recognition went to Bruce Uselman and Nellie Wegscheid with the Dream Catcher award. To qualify for a Dream Catcher Award, a Lions Club or individual must have accumulated $1,000 in donations to the Minnesota Lions Diabetes Foundation, Inc.

Further recognition went to the following Lion's Club members for their years of membership.

  • Cory Oehlke, 10 years
  • Ryan Anderson, 20 years
  • Jim Merickel, 35 years

District Governor of 5m9 Jamie Huttunen, or Bluffton, spoke about Lion's Club International start and growth from the very beginning with founder Melvin Jones.Huttunen refreshed the crowd of attendees memories as he shared that Lions International sent $10,000 to Wadena after the tornado struck in June 2010. The funds worked to help rebuild Wadena and help those hit hard by the destruction.
"Clubs came from all over the state to help us replant trees," Lion's member Wayne Wolden explained.

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Maria Greenwaldt of the Hewitt Lions serves up a heaping helping of food to those stopping by the community picnic put on by the Wadena Lions. The Hewitt Lions made and served food for the special occasion.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

The Wadena Lions club has 53 members (47 men and six women) and grew by nine members this year, according to Huttunen. They even had someone sign up to join during the event.
Huttunen made a challenge to the local club to once again bring forth a District Governor to lead the region's Lions into the future.
Lion of the Year Rick Johnson shared Wadena Lion's Club history. Wadena, Brainerd and Little Falls were all started at the same time, with Brainerd being first and Wadena second.
Johnson spoke proudly of their club being the charter sponsor of the Boy Scouts for the last 94 years. He also thanked women for joining the club helping to make the Lions stronger and better than before. The club was for many years for men only.
In looking at the club's ability to stay vital in the community, Johnson put out a call for anyone interested tin joining.
"We have a standing offer to anybody that wants to be a Wadena Lion — just contact us, we'll get you an application, and we'll certainly accept it," Johnson said.
Jeff Pederson, a Lions member for 32 years, took a step back to look at the 75th year of the club, where he said the club had 100 members.


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Jefferey Pederson shares some of the Wadena Lions' past during a presentation Friday, June 17, in Wadena.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

"We even had clergy then, so that was something," Pederson said.
He took a couple minutes to read the list of 100 men that were members at that time, some of which were present at the picnic that night.
Wadena Lion of 37 years, Dan Sartell, shared that he joined because the club stays busy doing good in the community.
"Being a Lion affords an immediate connection with fellow members in neighboring communities. Although all clubs are unique, we all share a common bond with Lions around the world," Sartell said.

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Dan Sartell reflects on his reasons for joining the Wadena Lions Club.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

He added that he's proud to be a Lion and asked the audience to join him in a toast to a new century of community service.

Look around the community and you can see the impact the club has had. Benches on trails, shelters at parks, playgrounds, service dogs, fundraising and more.
"I think we've had a positive impact on the community and I hope that we continue to do so," Pederson said.

He's a writer, editor, photographer, truth seeker and promoter of the Wadena area.
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