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Membership rally

North Oldham Lions opts to save
club and its Belknap Park

The club was in danger of disbanding

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(July 2006) – The North Oldham Lions Club has served its community for 50 years. A few months ago, it was in danger of ending its numerous humanitarian efforts and selling the William Burke Belknap Memorial Park it maintains on Hwy. 42 in Goshen. But now it seems the club will endure.

Bleknap Park

Photo by Don Ward

The William Burke Belknap Memorial
Park on Hwy 42 in Goshen has offered
a fun and friendly place for children
to play since 1971.

“At one time, it was a vibrant club,” said member Fred Royce, 61.
Recently, its numbers had dwindled down to 18. Members of civic organizations no longer want to make long-term commitments to a group, said Royce.
The club has maintained the park since 1971. The Belknap family deeded 25 acres to the club as a memorial after Louisville hardware magnate William Belknap died.
Belknap founded his hardware corporation in 1840 along the banks of the Ohio River. He began producing iron products in a small shop, and like the Lions Club, was attentive to the needs of his community.
On March 16, 2006, the board of directors for the North Oldham Lions Club voted to discontinue their club, close the park, sell it to developers and donate the proceeds to charity.
But since then, the vote has been rescinded to sell the park with the stipulation that the club maintain 50 members and raise $10,000. So far, Royce has his 50 members and is $3,000 short of his goal.
“We’re on our way,” he said. The Lions Club is the largest civic organization in the world, with close to 1.35 million members in 197 countries. Since 1917, the Lions Club has tackled such issues as blindness, diabetes and drug abuse prevention.
Royce wants surrounding neighborhood associations to contribute to his financial effort to save the club. He lives in the Paramont neighborhood, and if residents would add $5 to their quarterly association dues, this extra amount of money could be donated to the club for upkeep expenses.
Lori Johnson, a Prospect resident, was a faculty member of the School for the Blind in Louisville for 18 years. “They’ve done so much for the kids at the School for the Blind,” said Johnson. After discovering the plight of the club, Johnson felt compelled to help in any way possible.
She said there is no doubt that the Lions Club provides a valuable service to the community. “I’ve met many Lions Club members by the line of work I’m in,” she said. “They do so much for children and adults, as well.”
Johnson has now become a member of the North Oldham Lions Club. She is pursuing a doctoral in Visual Impairment and Blindness at the University of Louisville and is volunteering her expertise in an effort to help the club regroup. She is also on the Prospect Art and Craft Fair committee.
If the park and community center are sold, the art fair will be without a home. The North Oldham Fire Department has operated the art fair for the last two years.
This year, the Prospect Arts and Crafts Fair is scheduled for Sept. 23-24, according to organizer Karen Albers. The North Oldham Fire Department will move to a new location, if necessary, but still oversee the fair. The proceeds go to the WHAS Crusade for Children.
“The North Oldham Lions Club will provide home cooked food this year,” said Albers. This is different from the past food offerings. This will be the 34th year for the fair, and more than 100 vendors are expected, Albers said.
Closing the community center, which houses many of the vendors for the art fair, would be a definite loss for the community, she said. “The park is so well used. It’s a great place to have in the community.”
Lions Club District Gov. Joe Westerman thinks that with a growing membership, the Lions Club “will take on some things they used to do, like the Prospect Arts and Crafts Fair and fish frys.” He also thinks they will “take on different type projects to fit the needs of the area, and do so much more than they used to do.”
Westerman attributed a large number of senior members to the club’s decline. These members didn’t have the physical strengths to do some of the tasks that were required. “A younger crowd has different concerns than seniors,” but these differences can be worked out, said Westerman.
He is optimistic about the club’s future, believing that “in no time it will be as strong as it ever was. All that join have a good heart. They want to reach out to people less fortunate than themselves. They are thankful for what they have and want to give back to the community.”
“We have 50 people ready to do things,” said Royce. “We need to use the park in a charitable way to serve our community.”
The North Oldham Lions Club meets at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month at the Belknap Community Center. This month, they will meet July 20.

• For more information or to donate to this cause, call Fred Royce at (502) 290-5104.

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