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Ironton Lions mark 85 years

IRONTON — In every city there are often several long-standing organizations that are consistently dedicated to uplifting the community.

In Ironton, one of those is an organization that supports citywide beautification with Ironton in Bloom, community togetherness during the Memorial Day parade, vision awareness and supplication and so much more.

For the past eight-and-a-half decades, it has been the Ironton Lions Club that has provided a community foundation for the city and surrounding area, over and over again. And this year, the club’s members are inviting the public to collectively celebrate the 85th anniversary of Lions’ presence in the county — and anticipating decades to come.

Seven-year member and Ironton resident Lou Pyles said the anniversary celebration is in honor of the great accomplishment of the organization being active for so long, a feat many civic clubs never achieve.

“Volunteering nowadays is a thing of the past,” Pyles said of the foundational activity of the Lions Club. “But volunteering is the dream and vision of the club, and we work toward that vision, no matter if we have 10 members or 50 members, 60 members or five.”

Although she has been a member for less than a decade, Pyles said her time with the organization has been incredibly rewarding.

From scaring “victims” at the annual Haunted Tunnel fundraiser to collecting used eyeglasses for children to organizing the plans for a new playground at the Open Door School, the members of the Ironton Lions Club have been busy creating opportunity and a communitarian spirit in the area.

But the issue the organization holds closest to its heart and has made its No. 1 priority is eyesight, Lions Club President Dave Swartzwelder said.

The club consistently gathers recycled eyeglasses and purchases eyeglasses for children and those in need. And in the years since 2002, the club has sponsored four seeing-eye dogs for visually impaired individuals.

The most recent seeing-eye dog donation was to a Huntington, W.Va. woman who continues to battle a visually impairing disease.

She recently visited an Ironton Lions Club meeting to deliver a personal update and message of gratitude. But it may have been the club members who received the most joy.

“She talked about the freedom and independence the dog gave her,” Swartzwelder said about the woman.

“She told a story about trying to cross the street in Wayne (County, W.Va.). As she stepped out into the street to cross, the dog walked in front of her because there was a car coming. And that is awesome.”

For Pyles, Swartzwelder and the 30 other members of the Ironton Lions Club, the lives changed are the real reasons the club is still in existence 85 years later. Without the organization, the community would face a world of difference.

“When something goes away from your community like that, it trickles down,” Pyles said about the Lions Club hypothetically ceasing. “It’s like a business going out in your community – you’d think it won’t affect you, but it will trickle down and affect you.”

For now, the club and its members continue to support the city and its surrounding area, not only through financial contributions and tangible donations, but also through moral and emotional support. And these intangible aspects may just be what keeps the city thriving.