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Working Towards a Brighter Future

The following is a history of the Lake Stevens Lions Club from the memory of one of our charter members, Past President Lion Jim Mitchell. This history was initially edited by Past District Governor Jack Sahlbom and Past President Dale Smith.

The Lake Stevens Lions Club was chartered on October 17, 1949, with 32 members. Our sponsoring club is the Granite Falls Lions Club. Initially, our club was organized for the sole purpose of providing lights for the high school football field. The club raised $15,000 to purchase the necessary materials and the lights were installed with all volunteer labor. One of the charter members, George Hunger, donated timber for the light poles, local truckers donated time to haul the poles, and Puget Sound Power and Light provided equipment to install the poles.

During the 1950s the schools around Lake Stevens were the recipients of most of the fundraising projects at that time. Major fundraising projects were football uniforms, basketball uniforms, basketball warm-ups, choir uniforms, and bleachers for the new high school gym.

In the 1960s, the Lions Club purchased glass backboards for the new school gymnasium. Due to a severe Columbus Day storm, the football field lights were destroyed. Again the club raised the necessary funds, $60,000, to replace the damaged lights. Unique fund-raising techniques were used such as selling lights for $60 each and the football field was sold in one square foot sections. In 1962, Lake Stevens Lions Club started giving college scholarships to graduating seniors. The early scholarships were for $100, today the club provides three scholarships totaling $3,000. 

In 1962, the Lions Club was asked to become a member of Clubs Incorporated. Clubs Inc. was made up of the Ladies Sewing Club, American Legion, and the Union Sunday School Guild. At that time Clubs Inc. was floundering with financial problems and did not have the money to complete the construction of the new community hall. The Lions Club agreed to join and donated $6,000 to Clubs Inc. along with volunteer labor to complete the community hall. The three original clubs all disbanded or became inactive leaving the Lions Club the sole group in Clubs Inc. Eventually, the Lions Club asked Lake Stevens Junior Athletic Association to join them in membership in Clubs Inc., and that relationship has lasted for many years and is still in effect to this day.

In 1963, the Lions Club helped establish the first walking blood bank. At that time there was no official blood bank in the area, if blood was needed you had to go to the hospital and donate by transfusion. In cooperation with the local fire department, the Lions Club researched the possibility of a walk-in blood bank. Local eligible donors were typed at the fire hall. Area doctors donated their services and files were created with donors' names and blood types. Other communities soon asked our club to help them organize their own blood banks. The communities of Lake Stevens, Granite Falls, Monroe, and Marysville turned over their records to the organization that later became the Snohomish County Blood Bank.

In the 1970s the community hall was destroyed by a fire. The fire was an unfortunate event but the story is rather amusing behind the cause. It was New Year's Eve and the Jaycees were having a party. The weather was cold and some pipes had frozen. In an attempt to thaw the frozen pipes a torch was used to warm the pipes. The torch accidentally set the building on fire. Once again the Lions Club was able to raise $14,000 to rebuild the community hall from the ashes.

In 1973, the Lions Club donated yellow caution lights to the school district for their busses. This safety feature was later adopted by other school districts and today is a standard safety feature found on all school buses. Also during this year, the Lions Club raised $14,000 for the construction of tennis courts at the Pilchuck Elementary School.

In 1974, the Lions Club founded the Benny Lebarron Kidney Foundation which is now the Snohomish County Kidney Foundation. Benny Lebarron was a local resident who was diagnosed with kidney failure in 1967. In order to help him out, the club raised $6,000 to purchase a kidney machine. Snohomish County became aware of this foundation and asked for help from the Lions Club in forming a county-wide kidney foundation. Lion Dale Smith was very active in this project and served for many years on the Snohomish County Kidney Foundation Board of Directors.

During the 1980s the Lake Stevens Lions Club continued with its various build projects. The club completed one of the main buildings at Sherwood Learning Center located in the Frontier Village area. Once again this project was completed with volunteer labor and materials. Additional projects included helping to form the Lake Stevens Historical Society and helping with the building of the Lake Stevens Museum. The Lions Club has been a faithful supporter of the local fire department by donating life-saving equipment such as the jaws of life and resuscitators.

As a major fundraiser for the community center, Friday night Bingo became very popular in the Lake Stevens area at the community center. The Lions Club sponsored the weekly event along with Clubs Inc. The purpose of the Bingo was to help pay for the operation of the community center which was later named the Mitchell Community Center.

For many years it has been the desire of the members of Clubs Inc. to create a facility for the young people in our area. Due to competition from other gambling sources, the Friday Night bingo was not raising enough money to pay for the maintenance and operation of the community hall. In January 2004 a thirty-year lease was signed with the Boys and Girls Club for the building. The Lions Club pledged $5,000 a year for three years to help build a Boys and Girls Club in Lake Stevens. Due to the hard work of the Lions Club, the entire pledge was paid at the time of lease signing. This $15,000 donation was over and above all other Lions Club projects.

In December 2005 the Lake Stevens Lions Club formed the Lake Stevens Lions Charitable Foundation and it was registered as a non-profit organization with the Washington State Secretary of State office. In the spring of 2006, the paperwork for the foundation was approved by the IRS to become a 501(C)3 organization.

In March 2007, Tonya Christoffersen was elected as the first woman President of the Lake Stevens Lions Club. Being involved in many community activities, Tonya has helped to spread the word about what the Lions Club does. June 2007 was the first annual Lake Stevens Lions Fishing Derby. In November 2007 Lake Steven Lions Club adopted Eagle Ridge Park as part of the Adopt-A-Park program sponsored by the City of Lake Stevens.

Clearly, our history shows that we live up to the Lions Motto --- WE SERVE!

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Lake Stevens Club Members who served as Past District Governors, District 19B

1956 - 1957        *Ben Mitchell
1971 - 1972        Jack Sahlbom
1998 - 1999        Jim Knight
2008 - 2009        Terry Ostlund
* Deceased


Lake Stevens Club Members who served as Past Zone Chairs

Lake Stevens Lions Club was part of Zone 19B-1 until 1970 when Zone 19B-6 was formed.
1951 - 1952        *Ray Miller
1955 - 1956        *Ben Mitchell
1962 - 1963        *Howard Heath 
1968 - 1969        Jack Sahlbom
1973 - 1974        *Floyd Hepfner
1978 - 1979        *George B. Wallace
1983 - 1985        *Ex Ulsky
1989 - 1990        *Fred J. Hennig
1994 - 1995        Harold Ronnestad
1995 - 1996        Harold Ronnestad 
1999 - 2000        Harold Ronnestad 
2002 - 2003        *Alan Butterfield
2005 - 2006        Terry Ostlund
2008 - 2009        Steve Brooks

 * Deceased

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