More than 72 years after it was formed and became an icon of the local community, the Hillsboro Lions Club has announced that it will meet for the final time Thursday.
“It just breaks my heart,” said former two-term president Bonnie Parr, who recently moved on to the Mowrystown Lions Club. “I was in it for 21 years, and I worked hard for the Lions. We’ve tried everything. We’ve tried free dinners to try to get people to meetings, we tried a lot of other things, but it seems that people have kids and other things that keep them busy.”
At one time in the mid-2000s, Parr said, the club had around 75 members, but it currently has just 12.
She blamed the collapse of the Hillsboro Lions Club on a letter it received dated May 23, 2016, when Charlie Newland, a member of the Leesburg Lions Club who is also a district cabinet Lions Club member and holds several other Lions titles, saying he was considering starting a second Lions Club in the Hillsboro area.
That new club — the Liberty Township Lions Club — was chartered in June of 2017.
In part, Newland’s 2016 letter to the Hillsboro Lions Club said: “Thank you for the many years of service to the Hillsboro community. On April 6, 2016 your club has completed 70 years of service. Each of you is congratulated on your personal contributions and your club’s accomplishments.
“My initial suggestion of starting another Lions Club in the Hillsboro area was just a threat to motivate your members to become more active in recruiting and retaining new members. The main desire was to see your club grow and prosper. However, a few of my contacts have expressed a willingness to join a new club.”
Parr said Monday that, “From that point on we have lost member after member after member because of (Newland’s letter).”
Newland said that so far, only one member of the Hillsboro Lions Club has transferred their membership to the Liberty Township Lions Club. He said a few others may have joined other Lions Clubs. He also said he is sorry the Hillsboro Lions Club is ending its long run of community service.
“I’m really appreciative of their service-oriented commitment. I’m sad they’re turning in their charter,” Newland said. “If I can be of help to any of them, I’m willing to do that.”
Parr said the Hillsboro Lions Club has already dispersed the $23,000 it had in its coffers. Of that, Parr said, $10,000 went to SATH/KAMP Dovetail, $6,000 to the Highland County Junior Fair Board, $4,000 to Samaritan Outreach Services, $1,000 and a new $2,500 scoreboard to Shaffer Park, $1,000 to Hillsboro Youth Football, and $1,000 to Boy Scout Troop 171.
Parr said the main focus of the Hillsboro Lions Club has been to help children, and purchase eye glasses for the children of families who could not afford them.
“Our thing was all about the kids,” Parr said. “We didn’t do it for adults, we did it for children.”
She said the club helped 4-H camps, SATH, KAMP Dovetail, and for years parked cars at the Highland County Fair before changing three years ago to helping man the entrance gates. She said it was also part of an Adopt-A-Highway program, cleaning an area on U.S. 50 from the east edge of Hillsboro to New Petersburg Pike about once a year, although she said many of the members were too old to help with that the last couple years.
“I’m sure it’s going to be sad because a lot of these guys have been in it for years,” Parr said of Thursday’s meeting. “I’ve only been in for 21 years, but a lot of the other guys have been in it a lot longer than that. It breaks my heart to think we worked so hard and then we get a letter like (Newland’s).”
“It’s sad. It really is. Some of the members, I think, are going to move on, and others are going to just quit. They’re at that age where they’re going to rest.”
Newland said that if anyone is interested, the Liberty Township Lions Club meets at 6:30 p.m. the second and fourth Monday of each month at the Hillsboro Elks Lodge. He said the club currently has 22 members. For more information call Newland at 937-763-7595 or Dave Grover at 937-509-0166.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.