2013-12-20 / Front Page

The season

Lions Club shops for a cause
By Tracy Orzel
Contributing Writer


South Portland Lions Club member Mary Joe Hanna holds up a My Little Pony. Volunteers bought $3,000 worth of dolls, craft supplies, action figures, board games and sports equipment to be given to approximately 120 children at the Boys and Girls Club. (Tracy Orzel photo) South Portland Lions Club member Mary Joe Hanna holds up a My Little Pony. Volunteers bought $3,000 worth of dolls, craft supplies, action figures, board games and sports equipment to be given to approximately 120 children at the Boys and Girls Club. (Tracy Orzel photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – Most parents will tell you they enjoy watching their children unwrap Christmas presents just as much as their children enjoy opening them. The same holds true for the South Portland Lions Club, which donated nearly $3,000 worth of toys to the South Portland Boys and Girls Club.

Armed with wish lists and shopping carts, members of the South Portland Lions Club, the Thornton Heights Lions Club and staff from the Boys and Girls Club met at Target in South Portland on Saturday, Dec. 14 to buy presents for the Boys and Girls Club Christmas party.

South Portland Lions Club member and retired police officer, Kevin Battle, said the toy buy began about 25 years ago. At the time, Battle had been volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club and while helping out at the annual Christmas party, he noticed the children didn’t have any presents. The following year he enlisted the help of the South Portland


James Wickham, 11, son of South Portland Lions Club President, Jim Wickham, picks out an Iron Man action figure to give to the Boys and Girls Club. (Tracy Orzel photo) James Wickham, 11, son of South Portland Lions Club President, Jim Wickham, picks out an Iron Man action figure to give to the Boys and Girls Club. (Tracy Orzel photo) Patrolman’s Association to buy toys for the

children. “When the Patrolman’s Association kind of waved out, the Lions Club stepped up,” Battle said. “This way we make sure each child there at the Boys and Girls Club gets at least one item.” The South Portland Lions Club has supplied gifts for the Christmas party for more than 10 years. On Saturday, volunteers like Mary Joe Hanna scoured the shelves for Furbies, One Direction-themed items, Bratz Dolls, Polly Pockets, Hot Wheels, Legos, Erector sets, movies, sleds, board games and soccer balls for approximately 120 children. Hanna, who has been a member of the South Portland Lions Club for two and a half years, attended the Christmas party in 2011 and was able to witness the children’s reactions to the gifts firsthand. “It was pretty heartwarming, actually – just to know that the munchkins got something that they liked and knowing that it probably helped their parents or whoever their caregiver is,” Hanna said. Because every cent raised by the Lions Club goes back into the


Volunteers Dan Sampieri, left, and Steve Palmer, right, fill a shopping cart with soccer balls to be handed out at the South Portland Boys and Girls Club Christmas party. (Tracy Orzel photo) Volunteers Dan Sampieri, left, and Steve Palmer, right, fill a shopping cart with soccer balls to be handed out at the South Portland Boys and Girls Club Christmas party. (Tracy Orzel photo) community, it’s difficult to pinpoint where the $3,000 for the shopping spree came from. Throughout the year, the Lions Club participates in a number of fundraising events such the Maine Trucking for Kids Convoy – a truck show held at Scarborough Downs that features 63 trucks – and Friday night bingo.

“(If) they raise a dollar, then the dollar has to go somewhere in the community and the list that they donate to is considerable,” Battle said.

In addition to the Boys and Girls Club, the Lions Club also raises money for Camp Sunshine, D.A.R.E. programs and Meals on Wheels.

Ray Ruby, the unit director at the Boys and Girls Club, said he doesn’t know what the youth club would do without the generosity of the Lions Club.

“You never know what the kids are going to get at home, so it’s a great opportunity to make sure that no matter what, this time of year, they’re going to receive something,” Ruby said.

The Boys and Girls Club holds two Christmas parties each year – one for children ages 6 to 12 and another for the 12 and older crowd. Ruby said he and the rest of the staff try to break up the gifts and activities to better cater to the different age groups.

This year, the younger children will be given a pizza party and participate in candy cane relays, musical chairs and other games, while the teenagers will cook a familystyle dinner together with the help of staff members, watch holiday movies and compete in an “ugly sweater” decorating competition.

As for any leftover gifts, Ruby said those will go to the families in need this Christmas.

“Again, we could not do this without (the Lions Club),” Ruby said. “They’re part of the community, and one of the main things that we try to teach at the South Portland Boys and Girls Club is that you take care of your community, and in return they’re going to take care of you and it’s very important to build roots.”

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