By VANESSA MEUIR
Every second and fourth Tuesday of the month, a group of men gather in a Hy-vee conference room. They laugh and joke with one another as they stand in line to fill their coffee cups and their plates with breakfast. Some of them are dressed in business attire, and others wear jeans and baseball caps. They all have one thing in common – they are lions.
The Rock Bridge Lions Club was chartered in 1982 and met for the first time at Rock Bridge Elementary School. Chester Edwards, a member of the club from its beginning, knows the history of the club and its mission.
“We are a group of good people who are interested in the community and in the fellowship that the Lions Club brings,” he said.
The lions club got its name because everyone who attended the first meeting was from the south side of town.
“They named it ‘Rock Bridge’ Lions Club because of the elementary school, the high school and Rock Bridge State Park,” Edwards said.
The club’s purpose is to raise money for charitable organizations within the community. In addition to this, the lions provide $1,000 scholarships to two Rock Bridge High School seniors each year. To raise money, the club hosts several events throughout the year, including a clay shoot and a golf tournament.
Bill Morgan has been a member for 17 years, and always participates in the annual clay shoot.
“We had 240 shooters last year,” Morgan said. “We raised more than $4,000 for the food bank then.”
The lions aren’t only passionate about feeding people – they are also interested in supporting eye health. The club raises funds to support the eye tissue bank and the research on cornea transplants that happens there. They also provide glasses to those who are in need.
For Edwards, the decision to become a lion was influenced by his early years. Edwards grew up in a little town in Indiana, and his father was a charter member of the lions club there that formed in the mid-1940s.
“The lions club hosted little league baseball and softball and things like that,” Edwards said. “that created most of the entertainment in the community. I grew up lending a hand. I’ve always had this need to give something back to the community. There are multiple ways to do that, and lionism is one of them.”
Edwards went on to say that because of his fond memories of the lions club growing up, it felt natural for him to become part of the lions club in Columbia.
“Part of the value in doing these events is the fellowship that goes along with it,” Edwards said. “This is a pretty close-knit group of guys, and all of them have similar interests.”
The men did seem to be good friends, as they boisterously laughed and chatted over breakfast before the meeting started. Once the meeting was called to order, however, they all stood and recited the national anthem and commenced discussion of donations and events in support of their cause.
The Rock Bridge Lions Club invites anyone interested in lionism and what it stands for to join any of their meetings.
“We’ve never turned anybody away,” Edwards said.