Lions take pride in community service projects

By: Nancy Hagman, Special to the Colfax Record
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Wandering around Colfax Memorial Park one cannot help but be drawn to the children’s play area. Be it by young laughter or just to sit in a swing and reminisce of days gone by, you will soon discover two plaques. One plaque identifies the area as the Colfax Lions Children’s Park and is dated 1996. That date is a misconception; the club installed the first features in 1976 and club members have been caring for and upgrading the space, regularly, since that year. The former date is when they added the planter and other new features. The local group is a part of Lions Clubs International, the world's largest service club organization. Primarily recognized worldwide for their services to the blind and the visually impaired, the club was founded in Chicago, Ill. in 1917 by insurance agent Melvin Jones. This service began when Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become her “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness” during the association’s 1925 international convention. The Colfax Lions organized on May 9, 1928 at a dinner meeting held at the Marvin Inn on Grass Valley Street under the auspices of the Auburn chapter of the club, which sponsored the local den. The formation of the service club was largely due to the efforts of S.H. Sayre, who was then owner of the Colfax Pharmacy. On June 6, 1928, the parent organization officially recognized 28 local citizens at a meeting held in the old Memorial Hall (now city hall). The founding president was Arthur Cunningham. Colfax Mayor Dr. Robert A. Peers welcomed the Lions to Colfax and gave them the keys to the city. Following the program, the floor was cleared for dancing. Since its beginnings, the club has had members serve as a county supervisor, three different Colfax mayors and several city council members. The Interstate 80 off-ramp at Weimar is named for the late Frank Paoli, a Colfax Lion and former county supervisor. Lions are involved in a variety of activities to improve the community and to assist those in need. Primary among these are youth programs, the Children’s Park being a perfect example. The second plaque at the park indicates the landscaping to be donated by the club in memory of Ora Saalman, Edward Lucy and Kristen Hope Varvias, the granddaughter of Barbara and Harry Green. Remembered by her husband and Lion member Les, Ora Saalman was his first wife who died of natural causes in. Edward Lucy is honored for his service as an active Lion and postmaster during his dedicated career. Lucy was instrumental in bringing another monument to Colfax; he purchased and arranged for the transportation of the hydraulic mining monitor. That piece of heavy metal sits at the north end of upper Main Street (see Colfax Record, June 23, 2011). The final name on the tablet is a dedication by grandparents and Lions Harry and Barbara Green. They donated to the park cause in honor of Kristen Hope Varvias; she died at age 8 in 1992 in a tragic automobile accident on Highway 49 in Auburn. Mark your calendar now: the famous Colfax Lions Crab Feed, their annual fundraiser, is coming up Jan. 14 at the Sierra Vista Community Center. Check the community Calendar section of the Record for details.