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Oh, my: 30 years of turkey for Lions

Photo submitted to Times Observer Lion Bill Nicodemus serves rolls at the inaugural Lions Club Turkey Dinner 30 years ago.

There is good reason to be thankful for turkey.

Sometimes, it helps local not-for-profits. Sometimes, it helps people with hearing and vision problems.

The Warren Lions Club has been around since 1923. For the last 30 years, the club has been hosting a turkey dinner.

This year, the event will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, at the St. Joseph’s Educational Center in Warren. Tickets are available in advance through any club member, at Crone’s Medical Supply, or Kersey and Associates.

“We cook 45 turkeys,” Treasurer Jim Embrey said. “We do stuffing from scratch, potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, rolls, and a dessert.”

Photo submitted to Times Observer Chet Munksgard pours coffee at the inaugural Lions Club Turkey Dinner 30 years ago.

The preparation is too much for one facility. Some club members cook at St. Joseph while others are doing the same at First United Methodist Church.

Each year since 2013, the club has sold between 432 and 495 dinners. It is the organization’s single largest annual fund-raiser.

“It’s a great dinner and it benefits a good cause,” Lion Mike Holtz said.

At $10 per meal, “we think it’s a really good deal,” Embrey said.

Between ticket sales and contributions, the event typically brings in about $7,000, according to Embrey. Minus the related expenses of $2,300 to $2,700, that means more than $4,000 to the club.

No one is being paid out of those funds — “we don’t have any paid positions,” Holtz said.

“We do more of what we do because of this fundraiser,” Embrey said. “Warren Lions Club’s annual turkey dinner is our largest fundraiser and contributes to our ability to provide donations to charities” such as Toys for Tots, Youth Connection, Warren County Children’s Advocacy Center, Boy Scout Troop 6, and a number of entities through Warren Gives.

Sometimes, part of the dinner itself becomes a donation. “If we have anything left over, we will donate it to the St. Joe’s Soup Kitchen,” Embrey said.

The most common image of the Lions Club’s good works is one of helping people with vision problems.

That is a separate entity.

“The Lions Foundation of Warren County… we assist people who have a vision or hearing issue,” Embrey said. For example, “we assist with being able to afford glasses.”

Charities associated with the Lions Foundation’s work include: Eye Surgery Trust Fund, the Sight Center of Northwestern Pennsylvania, and Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind.

The Lions Club donates to a number of organizations — including, sometimes, the Lions Foundation.

The Warren club is a robust one, Embrey said, and most of the 45 or so club members participate in the event in some capacity.

That the local club is healthy compared to others in the region does not mean there isn’t room for more. “We’re always looking for folks in the community who are willing to become Lions,” Embrey said.

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