Thurmont Lions celebrate 75
The Thurmont Lions Club celebrated 75 years
of service to the community this week, with a bang.
Organized in October 1929, the organization began humbly.
But at Mount Saint Mary's University Saturday, the group had
much to celebrate.
About 145 people came to a dinner featuring a keynote
address by the Lions Club International President Clement F.
Though Kusiak is from Linthicum, Md., he has only spent a
handful of days in the area all year, local President Shirley
Long said. While there, Kusiak presented certificates of
appreciation to three local Lions for their contributions.
Lions members Susan Favorite, Doug Favorite (Susan's
brother) and Don Keeney were surprised to learn they were
being recognizing at the event, Long said.
As if that weren't enough, the Thurmont's mayor and board
of commissioners recognized the group at its Tuesday night
town meeting with a proclamation declaring October 2004 to be
Community Service Month in Thurmont and requested that
residents pledge continuing support to the Lions Club.
Following the proclamation read by Mayor Martin Burns,
Commissioners Wayne Hooper and Bill Blakeslee thanked the
group for its contributions to the community.
"I always talk about what a great community the Thurmont
area is and the Lions are part of what makes Thurmont great,"
Blakeslee said. "It's a wonderful organization. You work
hard... and we appreciate everything you do."
Club President Long thanked the board for the proclamation
and in turn presented the town with a print that the club
commissioned from local artist Rebecca Pearl, called "Glimpses
of Yesteryear." It depicts the Thurmont Town Square as it
might have looked on a snowy evening in the year the club was
founded. Sale of the prints is part of a fund-raising effort
for the club.
Present at the proclamation were 48-year club member Vic
Jagow and several others with a long history in the club. As
the club's historian, Jagow can recite many cherished memories
of the club's beginnings.
In the beginning
The Lions Club is a group of men and women who are
committed to acting on community projects and vision-related
causes, and to support that work with substantial efforts
The group started in 1929 during a luncheon between several
community-minded local businessmen. The men formed a committee
to contact county groups that were involved in civic
activities to see what group they would bring to Thurmont.
They soon chose the Lions Club and enlisted the aid of a
few members of the Frederick Lions Club. The Frederick Lions
then sponsored the Thurmont club and the new Thurmont Lions
held a promotional meeting at the town hall on Oct. 23, 1929
to begin seeking members.
Many well-known names were among the original signers for
the club. They included: Lester S. Birely, Victor M. Birely,
Dr. Morris A. Birely, Allen Creager, John Creeger, Wilber R.
Freeze, William J. Stoner, Harry W. Ruch, H.A.C. Sylvester and
On Nov. 2, 1929 the charter was presented and more members
signed at that time. The first meetings were held at the Mrs.
Ruth Eyler Restaurant across the street from the current
Thurmont branch library on Water Street.
The restaurant closed shortly thereafter and all other
meetings since then have been held at the Cozy Inn restaurant,
which is also celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
Jagow said the group began during the Great Depression and
spent much of its early efforts lobbying for better
infrastructure for the community. It was a peculiar time to
begin trying to raise money, but it was also a desperately
During World War II, the group thinned out dramatically as
many of the men in town went to war, but it continued
nonetheless, coming back strong after the war, he said.
While the club was originally made up primarily of
businessmen and farmers, the group has come to include a
diverse representation of the community. Women were included
The first woman president, Sharon Ochoa, took office in
2001. Since then two other women have been president, Jenny
West and, most recently, Shirley Long.
During its 75 years, the club has initiated and
participated in many community and vision-related projects.
The Lions donate money for an annual Easter egg hunt for
local children, finance scholarships for Catoctin High School
students, support Catoctin High's annual Safe and Sane program
for graduating seniors, clean up U.S. Route 15, finance
attendance for physically or mentally challenged youth at Camp
Greentop and collect eyeglasses and fund eye exams for
residents every year.
Well known for collecting eyeglasses and hearing aids to be
recycled, the club supports many other projects, such as
Thurmont's Boy Scout Troop 270, Senior Citizens Center, the
American Red Cross Blood Bank, Lions Club Leader Dog Program,
Frederick County 4-H Therapeutic Riding Club, Upcounty Family
Resource Center, Community Agency School Services, Thurmont
Little League, Maryland Medical Eye Bank, Mission of Mercy,
Thurmont Health Fair and Thurmont Food Bank.
The group has also provided financial assistance to members
of the community who needed help with medical necessities,
including medical expenses for a young boy with a detached
retina, a 19-yearold with leukemia and a man with brain
And they've helped in other ways such as building a
handicapped-accessible ramp for a local child and providing
transportation to the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins
To accomplish the many things the roughly 60-member club
does each year, fund-raising is essential and the club goes at
it with fervor.
Long said the club has come a long way from its early days
with six members crammed into a tiny camping trailer selling
Now they use a large tent, and dozens help with each event.
Fund-raising efforts include, but are not limited to, the
Thurmont and Emmitsburg Community Show food booth, a Colorfest
food booth, Christmas Tree sales, the Super Summertime Pit
Beef and Pork Sandwich sales at Bell Hill Farm, basket bingo,
benefit breakfasts and community birthday calendar sales.
To learn more about the Thurmont Lions go to
www.thurmontlionsclub.org or call club President Shirley Long