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Disability Action Center NW

Palouse nonprofits: Not just an ‘old guys’ lunch club’

Central Lions Club president says there is room for everyone in the service organization

Dulce Kersting-Lark, president of the Moscow Central Lions Club, said one of the biggest misconceptions she seeks to dispel about the decades-old service organization is that members have to be men.

“It’s not just an old guys’ lunch club,” Kersting-Lark said. “(People are) usually shocked when they find out (a young woman is) president.”

The club, which has about 70 members, boasts a mix of older adults, young professionals, college students, retired people and a mix of men and women, Kersting-Lark said.

“I have found it to be such a wonderful opportunity to meet people in my community who I otherwise wouldn’t know,” she said. “We really are doing important work in the community, it’s fun, and there’s room for everyone in the club.”

Since the 1990s, the Lions Club – as well as many other groups of its kind throughout the nation – started to see a decline in membership.

“Club membership is really important to baby boomers and it was important to their parents, but I think people in the Gen X and millennial age groups aren’t inherently inclined to join clubs in the same way their parents and grandparents were,” Kersting-Lark said. “I think that has all sorts of connections to how our society has evolved.”

The organization, whose mission statement is “We serve,” was founded nationally in 1917. The club made its way to Moscow in 1939, when service-oriented groups began to gain popularity.

In 1925, Helen Keller, an American author and lecturer who was the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor’s degree, attended a national Lions Club meeting in Cedar Point, Ohio. In her speech to the club, she challenged the service organization to be “knights of the blind.”

“From then on, Lions Club has been very involved in helping people that are blind and also people with sight impairment,” Kersting-Lark said.

Through its partnership with Lions Club International, the Moscow club can sponsor individuals who need specialized care, such as cornea repair or cataract surgeries. The club also works with the Disability Action Center NW in Moscow to help people in need of eyeglasses.

In May, the club holds an annual two-day fundraising drive to support national and international sight issues. The money raised is sent to Lions Club International.

“(Sight) is the big philanthropy for us, but we do lots of other things,” Kersting-Lark said. “If you have a need, you should contact Lions Club because we have a mission of helping those in our community who need assistance.”

The club has partnered with Palouse Habitat for Humanity to help build Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible ramps for community members in need. The group also donated $1,000 to the Backpack for Kids program to help provide steady meals for children who qualify for free and reduced lunch programs, and it provides a scholarship for Moscow High School graduates who are attending college or training programs in Idaho.

The club also puts on an annual Easter egg hunt at East City Park in Moscow and maintains a playground at Lions Park near the Latah County Fairgrounds. Equipment maintenance costs about $2,000 a year, Kersting-Lark said.

“We’re really just about enriching the community and making it a vibrant place to live,” Kersting-Lark said.

Members are required to pay annual dues, which were $94 this year. Kersting-Lark said the fee helps support the global mission of the club as well as underwrite the costs of local programs.

To get more information about or volunteer with Moscow Central Lions Club, go to its weekly meeting at noon on Tuesdays at the Best Western Plus University Inn, visit its website at e-clubhouse.org/sites/moscowcentral or contact Kersting-Lark at dulce.kersting@gmail.com. To apply for assistance or scholarship programs, visit the club’s website.