GENEVA – Newly installed Geneva Lions Club President Douglas Warlick approached the podium with a microphone clutched in hand.
Pausing to clear his throat, he spoke.
“Starting now, we’re going to stress the ‘fun’ in fundraising,” he said.
Some laughed and smiled, but Warlick’s statement was not only meant to entertain. It was a call to action.
While there was no shortage of fun at the Geneva Lions Club 75th anniversary celebration Thursday night at Eagle Brook County Club in Geneva, Warlick – who assumes his new position as club president Sunday – took the opportunity to emphasize the need for new, young members.
“The idea was to kick off the year with an event that could be as much fun as possible,” Warlick said. “But what’s happening is that service organizations are struggling with membership. That is until you bring younger, new blood into it.
“Fun fits into it because if you’re a fun group, people are going to come back and get involved. We need to stress the importance of attracting new members and fun is just the way to do that.”
But addressing the need for new membership was not the only message shared Thursday.
“This, 75 years, is something special,” Warlick said. “We wanted it to be a memorable evening. Tonight was about celebration. It was about having a good time.”
With the rhythm of heels pounding the wooden dance floor accompanied by the thumps of a baseball bat striking a lion-shaped pinata – there was enough fun to share during the anniversary event.
“It’s heartwarming to think that [the Geneva Lions Club] has been around for so long,” said outgoing club President Howard Pribble. “It’s been such a great function to this town. What a great way to celebrate it and have fun, as well.”
Hors d’oeuvres, dinner and dancing were the centerpiece of an evening in which the club, an organization focused on providing vision and hearing aid to the needy, celebrated its anniversary, installed new officers and presented awards.
Pribble, Terry Emma, Jim Kafer, Bruce Heidlauf, John Christensen, Jim Cullen and Robert Goodfellow were given awards for outstanding service in the Geneva community.
Warlick was installed as president, Thomas Rogers as president-elect, Nick Ninedorf as third vice president, Christensen as secretary and Daniel Joniak as treasurer.
“It’s a very special occasion,” said Leo Snyder, district governor of the South Elgin Lions Club. “Seventy-five years is a grand accomplishment. It’s great to award those people who stand out in the community. The future keeps growing. But you have to get younger people into the organization for it to grow. Everyone here has a touching story and has made a difference. I don’t see how someone wouldn’t want to get involved.”
Beneath the blare of the live band and the room filled with laughter, stories were plentiful.
“I’ve heard nearly every story there is,” Synder said. “Each story you hear breaks your heart. You want to help everyone who comes to you. When you make a difference, it makes you want to cry. That’s what Lions is about, that feeling.”
Following his closing remarks, Warlick took his wife’s hand and headed for the dance floor. Shortly after, he was accompanied by a host of Lions members dancing to the tunes of Sharon Lewis & Texas Fire in a night Warlick hoped would jump-start the future.
“When you bring in younger members, you’re able to do more,” Warlick said. “Hopefully tonight was an example of that. Tonight was a celebration. But going forward, we want to incorporate fun while bettering the community as well.”