Glenwood Springs Lions Club taking a look back on 100 years of community building
Four years after two Chicago businessmen founded the first Lions Club in 1917, about a dozen residents from Glenwood Springs followed suit, forming one of the city’s first organizations dedicated to strengthening community bonds.
A century later, members of the Glenwood Springs Lions Club still work diligently — funding scholarships, promoting eye care and volunteering around the city — to uphold that legacy.
Adorned in red fleece vests and gathered in one of the city’s oldest chapels, the First Presbyterian Church, a handful of local Lions gathered Tuesday, May 3 for coffee, donuts and business as usual.
“We spent the weekend celebrating our anniversary with members from all over the region,” Club President Dave Merritt, 73, said. “On Saturday, we hosted the district convention, and on Sunday we held our 100th anniversary dinner at Glenwood Vaudeville Review.”
The club’s inaugural bell, brazen and glinting in the morning sunlight, rested on a table at the center of the group.
“All Lions Clubs use a bell to start and end meetings,” Merritt chimed. “And, there’s a tradition of rival clubs trying to steal the bell. It’s a bit of a fun prank we like to pull on each other.”
Traditions are important to Lions, and among the oldest is a commitment to eye care, Lions member Kathy Wren, 64, said.
“Hellen Keller charged the Lions with becoming ‘Knights of the Blind’ in the 1920s,” Wren explained. “And it’s something we as an organization continue to strive for even to this day.”
Changing with the times
While the club’s membership is double that of the original charter signatures, Lions member Rob Trebesh, 77, said the roster count is a far cry from its heyday in the 1940s and ’50s.
Rob’s wife, 67-year-old Margie Trebesh, ran her pen down a printed list, tallying the local membership at 25, including four members who now reside out of state.
“Society has changed,” Rob Trebesh lamented. “The generation following us is more self-serving and self absorbed.”
Finding new members is increasingly difficult as older members age out or move away, he said. Margie Trebesh emphasized the need for growing membership, encouraging anyone with an interest to attend a meeting or call Merritt to learn more.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” she said. “Lions Club is more of a physical organization. We get up, go outside and pick up trash, man the gates at high school football games and build projects to benefit the community.”
Margie Trebesh unofficially joined the club in 1982, when she married her husband. At the time, club membership — locally and internationally — was restricted to men, but women’s auxiliary groups supported the official efforts.
In 1987, women were officially welcomed into the international organization, but Margie Trebesh waited until 2010 to join the roster.
“Rob was president then, and we needed to recruit a certain number of people,” she recalled. “So I officially joined to help make sure we met those numbers.”
Long before doling out a membership fee, however, Margie Trebesh paid her dues in sweat equity, earning the coveted Anne Sullivan award, which is given to members and non-members alike for their tireless efforts behind the scenes.
The honorific is a tribute to Keller’s caretaker, Anne Sullivan.
One of the club’s newest members, Sharon Crosby, said she joined for a few reasons, the least of which being peer pressure.
“Everyone on my block was a Lions,” said Crosby, 70, chuckling. “So I figured it was time, and I wanted something I could do that would give back to the community.”
Nowadays, the local Lions contribute to Glenwood Springs through fundraising efforts, volunteering at local events and promoting eye health and early eye-problem detection.
Over the past 100 years, however, the organization has left a mark throughout the community.
Merritt said they rallied together after World War II to build the bleachers in Sayre Park, unofficially known as Lions Park.
Before the city’s Parks and Recreation Department was well-established, Lions members maintained the park, building a picnic structure that has since been removed.
Before the Grand Avenue Bridge was built in 2017, the Lions decorated the thoroughfare with garland during the holidays, Wren said.
Before helicopters dumped loads of fish into Deep Lake, Lions Members filled milk pails with trout and hiked them up on foot, helping the Colorado Division of Wildlife stock the lake.
In the 1980s, the Lions Club was in charge of the city’s Independence Day fireworks display, which initially attracted Rob Trebesh to the organization.
And through it all, their commitment to serving the sight-challenged remained stalwart.
“We harvest corneas from organ donors around Colorado and Wyoming,” Merritt said, explaining the program benefits a wide-range of people struggling with eyesight ailments. “We also conduct early life eye testing throughout the elementary and pre-schools in the area, helping parents identify early eye conditions at a crucial point in a child’s life.”
Though hindsight is always 20/20, the group is polishing their lenses for the future as well.
Internationally, the organization has created a number of cyber charters, consisting of members who meet and conduct business via the internet, rather than in person, Merritt said.
Locally, members have opened meeting attendance to digital formats, such as Zoom, and recruitment efforts are underway to attract the next generation of Lions.
“In 100 years from now, the Glenwood Springs Lions Club may not exist in the same way it does today,” Margie Trebesh said. “But, it’s not going away, either.”
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at email@example.com.
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