History of the Moultonborough Lions Club

Moultonborough Lions Club

  By By Bruce Garry and George Pohle

February 2001

This is the 38th year of the Moultonborough Lions Club, serving the community proudly and proving the gathering place for many of the town’s community events. In 1963, 21 members of the Lions Club of Laconia/Gilford, who resided in Moultonborough, Center Harbor, Tuftonboro, and Sandwich met and decided to form an “Service Club” on this side of Lake Winnipesaukee.

    As required by the Lions International, in Oak Brook, Illinois, the 21 members formed an “Independent Service Club” and applied to the Lions Club of Laconia/Gilford for sponsorship. The Moultonborough Lions Club was granted it’s charter on October 29, 1963. In a ceremony held on December 7, 1963, the first elected President of the Moultonborough Loins Club, Russell Lamprey, was presented the charter.

    The early meetings of the Loins Club were held every third Monday at the “Country Fair Inn”, at the intersection of Route 25 and Route 109, currently known as “Maurice Family Restaurant”. The members discussed how the role of the Lions Club could fit in the community, by taking care of some needy residents and the community as a whole. Most of these members were already active in community affairs outside the Lions Club, and had many ideas in what they would like to do to improve the quality of life of the needy and the community.

    The first obstacle became apparent very quickly. They needed to raise money if they were going accomplish any of their goals. After considering a number of ideas, they decided Bingo was the best function to accomplish this. They looked at Bingo as not only as a way of raising money but also as a fun activity to bring the community together for a regular social event. After reviewing several locations around town to hold Bingo they were presented with their second obstacle – a place that could comfortably accommodate 150 to 200 people. In the late 1960’s there no place in town for this activity.

    In late 1968, early 1969, the Lions Club found a 22+ acre parcel of land at the junction of Bodge Hill Road and Route 109, which was affordable in a central location of town. The club not having the funds to pay the $16,000 cost of the land, four members took mortgages on their homes to secure the loan from Meredith Village Savings Bank. This purchase was completed in 1969.

    The foundation and building, alone with the electrical, plumbing, and heating were completed by local professional contractors. The interior walls, ceilings, along with all the painting were completed by volunteer Club members.

    In the summer of 1970, the Lions Club Hall was open and Tuesday Night Bingo began. In 1970 and throughout the 70’s, Bingo was very popular around the country, and consider somewhat of a pastime. As expected the crowds were 150 or more every Tuesday night enjoying a night of fun and excitement. It also was very successful in raising money and quickly became the primary source of income for the Club. As the Bingo interest faded most everywhere, the crowds also faded at the Moultonborough Lions Club. So after thirty years of being a staple in town, Tuesday Night Bingo came to a close in 2000.

    With the Club hall, which included a kitchen, the members met twice a month. The first Monday of the month, the Club held it’s business meeting. On the third Monday of the month, the members held their Dinner Meeting. A Kitchen Committee was formed, who decided the menu of the month, cooked the meal, and served it. The monthly meal meeting was nothing fancy. Just the bare tables with a few set up with plates, forks and knives. The Treasurer would collect four or five dollars from the members to cover the cost of the meal. Most of these meetings would last about an hour, however there were times that long discussions were required to resolve some issues.

    Almost immediately the Club Hall became the community center for several non-profit organizations. The use has grown steadily through the years that today the Lions’ use of the Club Hall is only 10%. The gatherings of other organizations, weddings, reunions, and private functions utilize the other 90% of the Club Hall use. The biggest day of the year for the Club Hall is when the entire community converges to celebrate the birth of America, on the Fourth of July, where town parade ends. The Lions membership cooks and feeds well over 250 people for this celebration.

    In 1976, Lion Joe Rembaum, led the membership in starting up the “Bicentennial Trust” charitable endowment fund. This is a perpetual fund that has a current value of $36,000, used to award High School seniors scholarship grants. There were two grant winners for last year’s class of 2000, each receiving $1,000 scholarships.

    In eight short years the Lions’ activities had grown to the point the Club Hall needed to be expanded for storage. In 1977, two wings were added on, going out the back of the hall. One wing was for the “Lions Den”, for a secure room to hold exclusive Lions meetings. The other wing was for much needed secured storage.

    The next major change for the Lions was not decided by them but by the State of New Hampshire. There had been a number of traffic on Route 109 at the bend in the road near Bodge Hill Road. In 1985, the state decided to reroute Route 109 by putting an extension in that went directly to Route 25. For this road work to be done, the state had to take two acres of the Lions property, of which the Lions was paid $1.00. There was another three acres separated from the Lions by Route 109. The three acres were sold to the neighbor for $800.

    While doing a drive by, in the Fall of 1986, Lion Mort Connors saw flames coming out the kitchen side of the Club Hall. He rushed to the firehouse and called the alarm. The firefighters came a running and saved the Club Hall. With the money from the insurance, and a lot of hard work of many people of the community, members and non-members, the Club Hall was restored, with a more modern kitchen.

    The next major program the Lions became associated with was the  “Meals on Wheels”. The North Country Elderly Programs, based in Berlin, had previously served some meals out of the Club Hall. They approached the Lions to use the Club Hall and Kitchen to serve the elderly of Moultonborough and Sandwich daily meals in the Hall and deliver to the shut-ins. To meet the requirements of this program, another addition to the Club Hall was needed to store the food and supplies. The Lions whole heartily welcomed the program, and with a $16,000 grant from the Doris L. Benz Trust, a 400 square foot addition was built and deeded to the Lions. The program went into full swing in 1989 and is going strong today.

    The Moultonborough Lioness Club and the Ossipee Valley Lioness, were both founded by the Moultonborough Lions Club, after Lions International inaugurated the Lioness program in 1968. By the 1990’s, the International Lions had begun inducting women. It became clear it wasn’t necessary to have three separate clubs with redundant programs. So the two Lioness clubs voted to dissolve their clubs and join the Moultonborough Lions Club. The merger of members allowing the women to join the previously all male club, did cause one of the male members to resign, but the rest of the membership considers the merger a big success. The membership has flourished since the merger and in the year 2000, the ladies comprise one third of the membership. The first woman president of the Moultonborough Lions Club was, Betty Wasson, elected for the 1997 term.

    The Summer Concert Series, sponsored by the Moultonborough Lions began in 1995. Lions Loretta and Tom Reed presented the concept to the membership from an idea that came from them organizing the town’s 4th of July parades. The concept was adapted with overwhelming enthusiasm by the membership and the community. The Lions reached out to the local businesses to build a gazebo for the bands to stage themselves for the listening pleasure of the audience. Again the local support was fantastic. The supplies and labor were all provided to build one of the largest and most unique gazebos in the entire state. The “Community Bandstand” was dedicated by 4th of July Parade Grand Marshall, Annie Forts, on July 4, 1997. Wednesdays in Moultonborough, during the summer, are now know as “Concert Night”. A great time to be had by all.

    Also in 1997, the Moultonborough Lions Club helped to launch the “UP Syndrome Fund”, with one of the biggest events in the history of the town. The Lions inducted Annie Forts into the membership and agreed to start a charitable endowment fund to support Annie Forts’ projects with Down Syndrome. The big event to kick off this effort was held on March 10, 1997, in celebration of Annie’s 30th birthday. The program became so successful that it is now a program of it’s own, with a fund of over $150,000.

   Over the last 38 years the Moultonborough Lions Club has had good times and bad times, as any organization would. Luckily for the Lions and the Community it has been more good to great times, to become of the most respected organizations in not only the area, but the entire state. There are many programs and people who are not mentioned in this history due to the lack of space, which are as significant as those mentioned here. Several members have risen in the ranks of the state leadership, and have represented the local and state Lions at the national level. Their work continues and their history is long from being over. They continue to up hold their honored motto – “We Serve!”