Edwardsburg Leos Becky Haines and Breanna Lee of Dowagiac select from pins offered by Dowagiac Lions Club President Ron Behnke.   A delegation of Edwardsburg Leos visited Dowagiac Lions Club March 20, including adviser Amy Anderson, (front) Chelsea Howard, Erika Howard, Tiffany Pope and Becky Haines; and (back) James Chapman, Breanna Lee and President Megan Halgren, Miss Edwardsburg. They are pictured from left with: John Rice, Ned Sutherland, President Ron Behnke, Ron Jones, Sister Lakes Lions Bill Everett and Jack Cooper, Bruce Springsteen and Sister Lakes Lion Tom Latz. “We’re in the same boat” of shrinking membership, Cooper, a retired educator, said.   By JOHN EBY john.eby@leaderpub.com
Edwardsburg Leos Becky Haines and Breanna Lee of Dowagiac select from pins offered by Dowagiac Lions Club President Ron Behnke.

Archived Story

Lions studying youth movement

Published 5:25pm Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dowagiac Lions Club is exploring forming a student Leo club, as Edwardsburg did with great success, or an Omega club with Southwestern Michigan College students ages 18 to 30.

President Ron Behnke said the club will be discussing its options after a presentation Wednesday night brought by third-generation Edwardsburg Lion and Leo adviser Amy Anderson, an Edwardsburg school board member with a classroom at Union High School through her day job directing the federally funded Educational Talent Search (ETS) grant with 700 high school students from across the county for Southwestern Michigan College.

She works with Dowagiac, Cassopolis, Brandywine, Edwardsburg and Marcellus.

“You have a lot of students in your high school begging for community service,” Anderson said. “Out of my 27 students in room 110, 25 have asked me for ways to get involved. If nothing else, if you have something coming up and need help, I can get you Dowagiac students to help. They want to get involved, but don’t know how.”

In 2006, six students came to Anderson desiring to perform community service.

They came up with HOPE, an acronym for Helping Other People and the Environment.

It mushroomed into 90 students within a year.

In 2010, the Lions Club broached Leos, an internationally recognized community service program with scholarship and study abroad opportunities. An Alpha program is for 11- to 18-year-olds.

Sept. 27, 2011, it was decided to form a Leos club. Anderson mandates six hours of community service to qualify for the first pin with their membership cards.

Leos display their pins on sashes like Eagle Scout merit badges.

“Pins are a huge selling point,” Anderson said. “We’ve made it so every 20 hours, 40 hours, 60 hours, 80 hours and, by the end of this school year, hundreds of hours, students earn pins.”

Where Dowagiac Lions Club has 19 members and Sister Lakes has 22, Edwardsburg has 46, thanks to parents joining because of their children’s involvement in Leos.

“Megan (Halgren) is our president and Miss Edwardsburg,” Anderson said. “Both her parents joined Lions Club because she and her sister are both Leos.”

“I was part of HOPE my sophomore year. It changed to Leos my junior year. I was excited to be part of the first group ever at our school. We go wherever we’re needed,” Megan said.

James Chapman was recruited into Leos while tutoring.

“I don’t care so much about the pins,” Chapman said. “Community service makes me a better person and gives me something to do with my time. There are a lot of clubs, but Leos have an actual impact on the community.”

Secretary Erika Howard was introduced to Leos through an aunt in HOPE.

“I went to everything because I was determined to go to the convention, which was fun.”

At 104 members, Edwardsburg Leos had been the largest club in Michigan, but Anderson said it has likely been eclipsed by Rockford due to Grand Valley student involvement, though probably no club volunteers more hours.

There were 19 Leos at the Polar Plunge into Pleasant Lake. At Saturday’s pancake breakfast, Leos will be inside the Lion and Easter Bunny costumes.

Edwardsburg Fire Department garbed them in turnout gear to promote its breakfast.

They rode elephants while greeting at the circus. They helped Dowagiac Fire Department during a festival. They unloaded 3,000 Christmas trees for the Lions’ sale.

“Someone calls with an activity. ‘Can you help out?’ I put it out to the students,” Anderson said. “These guys were pretty quiet when they started. At the district convention, they talked to people and got ideas for this summer. They’re constantly thinking, and I’ve watched these students come out of their shell. In the beginning, it was me doing introductions. Now, it’s them. I’m Leo coordinator for the district, so my job is to see if clubs are interested and to grow the program. We have 20 Leos who graduated last year and are currently at the college. They’re not Lions because they don’t know if they should be. Some of them live in the dorms, so technically they should be coming over here to meet with you. With the Leo to Lions program, they can get their first-year membership free, but would help you, too, if they join your club. You could have a division of your club with daytime meetings on campus. Every club is dwindling because people are so busy they aren’t getting as involved as they were. You can bring in more members if you bring kids in. It’s something I think every community in Cass County could benefit from.”

It costs $100 to sponsor a club of 20 students.


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