The Branson-Hollister Lions Club is celebrating its 65th Anniversary this month.
The Branson-Hollister Lions Club was charted on Nov. 12, 1954, and on Thursday, Nov. 21 the club celebrated its anniversary, and Thanksgiving, with a special dinner and ceremony.
Before it’s charter was given, the club began to organize on Oct. 26, 1954. The first meeting place for club members was the Sportsman Inn in Branson. Future meeting places included a variety of locations, including the Town and County Cafe and underneath a sycamore tree behind a local Christian church, according to the “History of the Branson-Hollister Lions Club.”
When Bingo was approved in the fall of 1982, the Lions began hosting weekly games as a fundraiser at area restaurants and other facilities in the area, according to e-clubhouse.org. It wasn’t until the fall of 1987 that the club began construction of a Lions Community Building. The new facility opened its doors in January 1988 at the cost of $200,000.
During the 2018/2019 fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30, the club donated a total of $114,000, which is an all-time high for the club, according to Branson-Hollister Lions Club Past Council Chairman Howard Hawkins.
“We do a lot of good in our community. A lot of organizations are able to keep functioning because of what we have done for them. We do a lot with the Kirbyville school, Hollister school and Branson school,” said Hawkins. “We are now giving out around 12, $1,500 scholarships per year in the area.
“We just bought a bunch of playground equipment for the handicapped for Hollister schools and provided some additional money for some ground cover where they’re setting it up.”
From Jan. 1 to Nov. 22 of 2019, the club has already donated a total of $102,851 as part of its 65th anniversary year.
On top of the various donations made to area school districts, in recent years, the club has also made donations to local Boy Scouts, Christian Action Ministries, Faith Community Health, the Taneyhills Library, Gift of Hope, Jesus Was Homeless, the Missouri Lions Eye Research Foundation and other local and international Lions Club organizations.
Hawkins said that when the Leap Day Tornado struck Branson and the surrounding communities in 2012 they immediately jumped in to help.
“Through our Lions International Foundation, which is one of the top rated foundations in the world, we were able to have money in our hands within a few hours to start helping the people that were displaced or had their homes tore up,” said Hawkins. “I don’t remember off-hand how many we did, but it was in excess of 100 people that we were able to help with immediate needs. That’s what our money is for. It was right at $9,000 that was spent in the Branson area.”
While they have had an important impact on the community, Hawkins said they are now needing to turn to the community for help.
“We do a lot of good in our area, but like a lot of organizations, we’re hurting for members. People don’t seem to get involved or have the time to get involved,” Hawkins said. “It kind of concerns us, because a lot of these organizations depend on what we do and what we’re able to help them with. It’s just something we don’t want to see go away. I’ve spent over half my life with the Lions and it’s always been rewarding.”
Hawkins said that in order to become a member of the Lions Club, you must be invited to be a member, but if someone is interested in joining the club, they should stop by on a bingo night to visit with some of the current members.
“We would love to have some of the other people in the area join up with us. The more people we have the more we can do and the more people we can help in this area. It’s a very rewarding organization,” said Hawkins. “We do have a very dedicated and very hardworking group of people now. They really work hard and they believe in what we do.”
Membership dues are $80 a year, which Hawkins said can be paid semi-annually or monthly. Bingo is every Monday at the Lions Community Building. The doors open at 3:30 and play starts at 6 p.m.
Club meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month at 11:30 a.m. and the third Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. The Branson-Hollister Lions Community is at 1015 E. Highway 76.