Doylestown Lions Club celebrating 75 years of service, 1945 – 2020

submitted by John P. Staszak, Board of Directors, Doylestown Lions Club

The Doylestown Lions Club was the third community service club organized in Doylestown, and the elected officers were formally installed at the Charter Presentation Meeting on June 26th, 1945.

The new Lions Club was led by Lion (Mayor) Wilbur H. VanDine. The Club was sponsored by the Souderton Lions Club and had 20 members at that time.

The Central Bucks Community Band initiated “Concerts in the Park” in June, 1931 and in 1946, the Doylestown Lions Club began sponsoring these concerts and this summer event continues, approaching 90 years of performances.

Unfortunately this year due to COVID-19, the concerts were suspended until next year. They are performed at the Doylestown Courthouse courtyard and are free for all to enjoy.

To assist the Lions’ national and international charity programs, a collection is taken up during intermission.

In 1955 the Doylestown Lions Club President John T. Welsh requested Mayor George C. Butler for one day in April to “Root for the Navy.”

Although Captain Butler, a retired Army infantry officer who was one of the few Spanish-American War veterans living in Bucks County at that time, had always been loyal to the Army, he was persuaded to switch to the Navy for a day.

Dr. Manning B. Smith, chairman of the U.S. Navy Band, requested of the Mayor that since this was the Navy Band’s first concert appearance in Doylestown, that he would proclaim Wednesday, April 20th, 1955 as “Navy Day.”

In 1957, the Club purchased and donated a $100 Eye Testing Machine to Doylestown Borough Elementary School.

The intentions were this machine be used for testing the students of the public and parochial elementary schools.

Lions Club President L. Lloyd Trauger presented the vision-testing machine to Marion A. Franco-Ferreira, the Supervising Principal of the Borough Elementary School and to the Reverend John F. Fogarty for use at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parochial School.

The Lions International constituted the eye-testing machine must be owned by the Borough Public Elementary School but every school child in Doylestown would have the privilege of undergoing eye tests.

In 1961 the Club orchestrated its First Annual Minstrel Show. By 1965 more than 2,000 people attended “Hills-A-Poppin’,” having two performances with more than 950 people attending Friday night’s performance, and a standing room only crowd at Saturday night’s show.

Lion Carver stated, “It was one of the most successful performances they had ever given,” and the Club raised over $2,000. These performances continued for six years thereafter.

In the 1970’s the Doylestown Lions Club membership grew, exceeding 150 active members.

With this, the Club accomplished many things which included participating in community fairs and events selling hot dogs and hamburgers and/or assisting with parking.

Throughout the years, the Club sponsored fundraisers including Pancake Breakfasts, Road and Bicycle Rallies, Cow Bingo and Auto Shows.

Other projects the Club worked were for the less fortunate and the community.

These projects involved food larder collections, painting and repairing homes in the Doylestown area, sorting children’s Christmas gifts at the Tabor Home, Book Drive and the clearing of a field to develop the Maplewood Baseball Field.

The Club’s largest accomplishment came when they, with fellow Lions from neighboring Clubs, visited the Pennsylvania Lions Beacon Lodge located in Mount Union, Pennsylvania.

The lodge is a summer camp situated on over five-hundred acres for children and adults with special needs including blindness, deafness, and many other physical and mental challenges.

These Lions were instrumental in getting things done and utilizing membership skills of carpentry, plumbing and masonry. 

The first year on “28 Work Weekends” the Club assisted in clearing ground for the campers.

The following years they continued by building a stone bridge over the creek for vision impaired, lavatories, tree house and six overnight pavilions along with “Special Olympics Overnight Camp.”

In addition, the Club built The Doylestown Wilderness Center at the Lodge, which included walkways, swings, rock climbing, zip lines and helped with general park maintenance.

The Club worked these projects for more than 20 years, making this the largest task they ever took and making this destination still a tremendous achievement.

To this day the Club continues to support the Lodge, sending two campers every summer.

Moving forward, in 1985 Club presented The Heart of Bucks County Auto Show.

Approximately 6,000 people attended the two-day event, which featured more than 300 antique cars.

The Club raised approximately $7,500 and that was earmarked for local charities as gifts from the Doylestown Lions.

The principal benefactor was the Bucks County Association for the Blind.

To date, these shows continue being sponsored by the Solebury Lions Club.

In 1993, the Club assisted with Camp Kirby located in Upper Black Eddy. Camp Kirby was a resident camp for deaf and hearing-impaired children.

During the next 20 years, Club members helped with repairing and rebuilding rest rooms, kitchens, cabins and building picnic tables and other facility maintenance.

Unfortunately, in 2015 due to lack of enrollment the camp closed.

The Doylestown Heat was formed in 2007 by a group of local musicians who were members of a jazz band affiliated with Delaware Valley College.

Since the college band program took a break from late May to September, the jazz band had no opportunity to play during the heat of the summer.

Filling this gap gave birth to “The Doylestown Heat” and the origin of its name.

The Lions Club became the sponsors of the Heat with the goal that the band would promote the Lions Club presence in the community and help the organization in its fund-raising efforts for community service projects.

In 2009, the Club had their first “Basket Bingo Bonanza.” This event was so successful that they turned it into a seasonal event, one in the spring and another in the fall.

To help its success, local businesses have been very generous and supportive with donations, supplies, gift baskets and silent auction prizes.

To date, the event continues being the most active fundraiser within the Club attracting an audience of as many as 150+ players.

In 2016, the Club enrolled in the Adopt A Highway program, adopting a two- mile stretch of roadway in Bucks County. The program supports keeping the environment clean of litter and debris along the local highways.

Cleanup occurs in the fall and then in the springtime around Arbor Day.

In October 2016, “The Sensory Trail” at Doylestown’s Central Park opened.  The sensory trail consists of nine separate sections, called pods. 

Each pod highlights different sensory integration techniques, to help children of all needs (particularly on the autism spectrum) interact with the natural environment.

The sensory trail is thought to be one-of-a-kind in the state of Pennsylvania. It was created in response to the Parks and Recreation board wanting to make Central Park more accessible to people of all abilities.

It was with the support of the Doylestown Lions Club and other business and organization community support that this was accomplished.

In the same year the Club began doing pediatric vision screening identifying underlying vision deficiencies in children under the age of seven.

At that time Past District Governor Chip Nedza had transferred to the Club with his own Welch Allyn SPOT Vision Screening machine. With his assistance the Club created a program throughout numerous daycare facilities within the community to annually test children’s vision.

To date the Club has tested over 2000 children, identifying approximately 5% of them with a visual impairment.

Recognizing these problems at an early age, and with follow up treatment before the age of seven, many of these children may not need glasses in later years.

In 2018, the Club purchased its own machine and continues to schedule screenings.

For 75 years, The Doylestown Lions Club has become entrenched within the community.

Every day the Club shows it continued presence throughout the town with numerous eyeglass collection boxes prominently displayed on walkways and inside local businesses.

Along with always being there to help individuals, they continue to support the numerous charitable organizations including The Bucks County Association for the Blind, Delaware Valley Eye Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Leader Dog, Diabetes Awareness, Special Olympics & Quality of Life and White Cane.

In addition, during the holiday season they continue to assist A Woman’s Place, which is a domestic violence community benefit organization in Bucks County.

The Doylestown Lions Club is excited about celebrating 75 years of community service.

As with many Clubs, active membership is key to its success and they continue to welcome new members to help further the mission of “We Serve.”

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