Two little words that sum up the dedication of hundreds of men and women in West Virginia who are members of Lions Club International.
The West Virginia Lions Clubs are grouped into four districts, named L, I, O and N. Each district has a governor who serves as leader for the clubs in his or her district. This year, Green Bank resident and Durbin Lions Club member Charles Sheets is serving as District Governor of 29-N.
Sheets rose through the ranks to reach this point where he will share his love of being a Lion.
“It’s a great organization,” he said. “We help people, and we get to meet so many interesting people.”
As part of his duties as DG, Sheets is in charge of the district conference, which was held last weekend at Pipestem State Park.
Serving as DG is bittersweet this year because the WVLC is redistricting, changing from L, I, O, N to L, C and I. Because of this change, Sheets is the last Lion who will serve as 29-N District Governor.
“It’s sad it is our last year,” Sheets said. “The change is due to the loss of clubs. When I visit these clubs, I see how many of them were formed right after World War II. There were a lot of clubs formed in 1946 and 47 in 29-N and now, we haven’t had a new club formed in awhile.”
One of Sheets’ goals as District Governor was to honor those clubs that have withstood the test of time, especially the members who have dedicated decades to serving their communities.
During the district conference, Sheets honored the members who have been in their clubs for 50 or more years.
“When you see the fifty-year members, how devoted,” he said. “Mr. [Alvin] Porterfield hasn’t missed a meeting in fifty-four years. It’s unbelievable. That’s the dedication of the old Lions members.”
Members honored for 50-plus years of service are:
Bills Simmons and Huge Harris, of Alderson; James Robinson, of Beaver; Joe Sanders, W. T. Moore and A. A. Hopkins, of Bluefield; Nick Ameli and Joe Vinciguerra, of Bluewell; Lane Ellis and Gale Brown, of Clay; Dr. William Bennett Gray, of Cowen; Richard Reigel, of Durbin; Louis Rahall, of Fayetteville; M. Scott Gibson, of Flatwoods-Heaters; Noel Pletcher, of Gassaway; Alvin Porterfield and Harold Ryder, of Lewisburg; James Nottingham, of Marlinton; N. L. Ellison, of Mount Hope; Robert Carrico, of Princeton; Mose Khuri, of Richwood; John Thomas, of Sutton; and John Mallamaci, Claude Banner, Raymond Bean and Wayne Hicks, of Welch.
Along with honoring members, Sheets focused on providing information about ways the clubs can better serve their communities.
“We had a speaker, Rachel Kinder, with Missions West Virginia,” he said. “West Virginia has about 4,300 foster children. She gave a lot of statistics about trying to find foster homes and kids in foster homes. There’s a lot of opportunities for Lions or any organization to get involved with foster children.”
Another program was offered concerning the number one project of all Lions clubs – vision.
“The program was The Eyes Have It,” Sheets said. “They’re two young optometrist and they spoke about eye disease and ways to catch vision issues with screenings. It was one of the greatest programs.”
While the schedule was full of informational programs, Sheets made sure to make room for an evening of fun. Friday night, the Lions were asked to dress as hillbillies or rednecks for a night of square dancing with dance callers Eugene and Ellen Ratcliffe, and featuring music by Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters.
Members from the Durbin and Marlinton Lions clubs attended the conference, including, from Durbin: Kenneth Vance, Jacob Meck, John Wayne, J. P. Alonso, Rick Wooddell, Kermit Friel, Carolyn Sheets, Linda Stewart and Suzanne Stewart. From Marlinton: Larry Lucas, Phyllis Lucas, Del Cohrs, Laronia Cohrs, Harvey Galford, Joe Laskey and Sue Laskey.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org