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Rigby Lions Club celebrates 95 years of service

Rigby Lions Club members with Mayor Richard Datwyler following a proclamation declaring June 24 Rigby Lions Club Day. The group is celebrating 95 years of service on Saturday. The video above is a brief history of Lions Clubs International, the umbrella organization for the Rigby chapter, which was established in 1917. | Courtesy Sue Kenny
RIGBY — Joining The Business Circle was the beginning of a much larger vision for Melvin Jones.
It was 1913 and the 33-year-old insurance salesman from Chicago saw the networking and lunch group as a way to help people grow their businesses. But with the outbreak of World War I the following year, and the social and political conflicts that came about as a result, Jones felt compelled to do more.
“What if these men who are successful because of their drive, intelligence and ambition, were to put their talents to work improving their communities?” Jones is reported to have said.
Jones began to explore the idea of starting an organization focused on identifying and addressing needs in the community through humanitarian service projects. On June 7, 1917, Lions Clubs International was born.
Jones liked the idea of naming it the Lions Club because “he was convinced the lion stood for strength, courage, fidelity and action,” one article reports. It was only a matter of time before local chapters began to pop up. Today, Lions Clubs International is the largest service organization in the world with 1.4 million members.
The Rigby Lions Club is one of 52 clubs in the state and the second-oldest one in Idaho. It’s celebrating 95 years of service on Saturday at the Rigby Senior Center. Mayor Richard Datwyler signed a proclamation last week officially declaring June 24 Rigby Lions Club Day.
“I … urge all Rigby residents to honor the Lions dedication and commitment to service by serving the community and their neighbors throughout the week,” Datwyler writes.
Club members have been involved in numerous service projects over the years. One of the most well-known is its annual eye screening for elementary school kids in the Idaho Falls, Bonneville, Swan Valley, Jefferson, Madison and Fremont school districts, including Montessori and charter schools.
“We also assist with screenings at the Eastern Idaho State Fair,” former club president Sue Kenny tells “We have the ability to help families pay for an eye appointment and to get glasses. This past year, we served over 17,000 kids.”

Rigby Lions Club members at a recent eye screening for elementary students. | Courtesy Sue Kenny
The club has conducted more than 200,000 screenings in the last 20 years and seeing kids who have benefitted from it is the highlight of Kenny’s involvement in the club.
Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become “knights of the blind” during an international convention in 1925. It’s a challenge the Rigby Lions take very seriously, Kenny says. Her husband, Paul, is blind and deaf, and a “dedicated” lion club member.
“He goes to the schools when we screen eyes and talks to kindergartners about being blind and respecting the cane,” she says. “We started this a year ago and it has been successful at every school.”
The Rigby Lions were given the Helen Keller Service Award in 2018 for its efforts in supporting vision and eyesight over the years.
Serving the community since 1928

Walter West, left, and Charles Broulim were two of the Rigby Lions Club founding members in 1928. | Courtesy Pat Scott
The Rigby Lions Club was chartered on March 5, 1928, according to a Rigby Star article provided by club member Pat Scott. It originally had 21 members, one of which was Charles Broulim, the founder of Broulim’s grocery store. Watson F. Stripe, a local baker, was its first president.
For many years, the Lions club was a mens only organization, but in the 1980s, Rigby’s Gayle Hodges became the first woman to join a Lions club in Idaho.
One of the club’s early projects dates back to the 1930s, the Jefferson Star reports. It involved buying gasoline and selling it in town at cost. Gasoline was apparently not available in Rigby at the time and residents had to go to Idaho Falls to get it. Though it was a project the Lions Club discussed, historical records do not say whether it actually happened.
In recent years, the Rigby Lions were behind multiple improvement projects. In the 1990s, the group provided $4,450 for a landscaping project on the U.S. Highway 20 interchange on the south end of town.
“Lions and community members donated their time to plant trees, shrubs, grass and install a sprinkler system,” the newspaper reports.
In 1992, the Lions partnered with the Rigby Rotary Club to build a shelter at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.
The club today and goals for the future
Today, the Rigby group is a major sponsor at multiple community events, including Kids Day at the Jefferson County Fair and Trick or Treat on Main Street every Halloween. With the help of Lions Clubs International, it provided $200,000 in aid for those impacted by the earthquake in Turkey earlier this year.
RELATED | Earthquake death toll grows past 6,300 in Turkey and Syria
The Rigby club has 19 members. Ena Merrill is the group’s longest-serving member and its current president is Jerry Mastel.

Ena Merrill, left, is the longest-serving member of the Rigby Lions Club. She’s been part of the group for more than 40 years. On the right, former president Sue Kenny poses for a photo following a lions club event. | Courtesy Sue Kenny
Kenny joined the group about eight and a half years ago and will be inducted as a district governor at a convention in Boston next month. As district governor, her role is to oversee and guide 22 Lions clubs throughout eastern Idaho.
Going forward, Kenny is hoping to increase Rigby Lions Club membership, which is open to anyone 18 and up.
“We may have 19 members but we only have 10 or 12 that are the most active and do a lot of the work. We just need more people to join,” says Kenny.
She’d also like to start a Leos Club, a similar organization for youth established in 1957. Those interested in learning more can contact Kenny via email at
The post Rigby Lions Club celebrates 95 years of service appeared first on East Idaho News.

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