There are many entities celebrating anniversaries and birthdays in 2020 and 2021 in Cole County, and I have selected one to share its history.
The Jefferson City Host Lions Club is celebrating its 95th anniversary. During its 95 years as a service club, the Jefferson City Host Lions have formed or sponsored 45 other Lions Clubs in Missouri. The Host Lions Club sponsored the Breakfast and Evening Lions Clubs in Jefferson City. In Cole County, they have sponsored the Wardsville, Russellville and Brazito-Honey Creek Lions Clubs. Other Missouri clubs formed by the Jefferson City Lions Club include California, Chillicothe, Clinton, Eldon, Fulton, Hermann, Linn, Marshall, Mexico, Sedalia, Tipton, Warrensburg, Washington, Lebanon and Kirksville.
The Jefferson City Lions Club was one of the first Lions Clubs chartered in Missouri in 1925. At that time, the Lions International was only eight years old itself. On June 11, 1925, the Jefferson City Lions Club was chartered at Moreau Park with 28 members. The first president was James Houchin, president of Farmers and Mechanics Bank and a manufacturer. Other members included prominent business leaders, merchants, bankers, doctors, judges and citizens who wanted to serve our community. One member I am proud of was William C. Irwin, a state senator and law partner of my grandfather, Samuel M. Bushman Jr. Membership into a Lions Club was by invitation only. Clubs could only have a limited number of members by business classification. The quota of attorneys was filled so my grandfather couldn't be a member. I made up for this when I joined the Jefferson City Host Lions Club in 1979.
Elected officials over the years who were members of our club include Gov. John Dalton; Gov. Warren Hearnes, who joined while secretary of state; State Auditor Haskell Holman, 1953-71; Sens. Carl Vogel and Chris Graham; Rep. Bill Deeken; Judges McCormick Wilson, James McHenry and Richard Callahan; Sheriffs Wayman Baysinger, John Hemeyer, Greg White and John Wheeler; Mayors Red Whaley and John Christy; many, many county and city officers; and last but not least, yours truly, Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman, who served as president in 1990-91.
In 1925, Helen Keller attended the Lions Convention in Chicago and, in a speech to the delegates, charged the Lions to become the "Knights of the Blind." Since this time, sight programs have been one of the major missions of Lions Clubs International. In Jefferson City, there are yellow eye glass collection boxes throughout the city. The eye glasses we collect are sorted by prescription and distributed throughout developing countries to provide sight to these people. Missouri Lions Clubs are fortunate to have a testing and sorting center in our Cole County Health Department.
In 1946, the Jefferson City Lions Club started the Jefferson City Parks System. We developed our city parks and Little League baseball. When I joined the club in 1979, we were sponsoring 16 teams. The Lions also built the first ice arena and contributed the first two scoreboards at Public School Stadium.
One of my favorite Lions events when I was growing up was the annual Lions July Fireworks Festival at Washington Park. The Lions had kiddie rides, games, booths and food, culminating in a spectacular fireworks display. As the years went by, the festival outgrew Washington Park, and it moved uptown and is today's Salute to America celebration.
In 1949, the Jefferson City Lions Club, along with the Jefferson City Police Department, created the School Safety Patrol program at all our elementary schools. Lions continue to support this program today.
When you see Lions in their gold vests selling peanuts on the street corners, ringing the bell at Christmanstime for the Salvation Army, or serving succulent ham and beans at Selinger Center, know that all proceeds from these activities stay in our community.
In June 1925, 28 caring people met and created the Jefferson City Lions Club. As we added clubs to Jefferson City, we became the Host Lions Club. The Lions motto is "We Serve," and for 95 years, my Lions Club has served our community. Today, Lions Club International is the largest service organization in the world with more than 1.4 million members in over 200 countries.
Happy 95th birthday to the Jefferson City Host Lions Club!
Sam Bushman is the presiding commissioner on the Cole County Commission. He shares his perspective each month on county issues. He can be reached at [email protected]