Volunteer of the Week: Ron Behnke, Dowagiac Lions Club

Published 10:01 am Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ron Behnke, of Cassopolis, is a retired maintenance worker and the president of the Dowagiac Lions Club. Behnke and others with the service organization will volunteer with the club’s annual White Cane fundraiser from June 1 through 3.

How long have you served as president?

I’ve been president several times before, with this last one for the last seven years.

How long have been involved with the Lions Club in general?

Ron Behnke

I’ve been there since ‘89, so that would be 28 years.

How did you get involved?

My dad was a Lion. My uncle and cousins were Lions members as well. After the kids got out of school, I had more time so I joined.

What are some of the functions the club organizes?

We do a pancake breakfast every year for the fly in at the airport. We do a $500 scholarship for graduating seniors. We do the White Cane fundraiser, which raises money for glasses and leader dogs. There are about six or eight things we give money to.

How does the White Cane fundraiser work?

We go stand out in front of stores with a white cane, which is a 3-inch plastic pipe that people stick money in. It looks like a cane. We wear our vests, and give out cards saying, ‘you donated to the Lions Club.’ We go stand outside places like Hale’s, Family Fare, Harding’s — wherever we get enough members to go stand and collect.

What do the proceeds go toward?

Glasses, hearing aids and leader dogs. We support the dogs in Rochester [Hills, Michigan]. They raise dogs there help lead the blind.

How many members
typically help collect money?

We have 17 members now, 12 of which are active. Whatever we can get. We usually get six or eight guys. They are not all out at one time. There might be three guys, then another three.

How much do you guys
usually raise through the drive?

Last year we collected around $1,600, somewhere right in there. We also have our eyeglass boxes around town. We collected around 3,000 of them.

Why do you personally
volunteer for this program?

We have had our home burned, and people helped us. Now that we are retried, we want to help out in the community. I was born and raised in Dowagiac. I want to help out the town however I can.

Is there anything you would want to say to encourage people to get involved with the Lions Club and help out?

We’re a good club, and we help a lot of people.

We meet the first and third Wednesdays every month, at 6 p.m. [at the Lions clubhouse, located 28606 Blue Bird St., Dowagiac].