It was two to three years in the making, but the Roberts/Hammond area now has a Leo Club to call its own.
The Central Saint Croix Leo Club had its charter meeting at the beginning of May, according to club president Dana Queen.
A Leo club is a youth organization of Lions Club International that provides youth with opportunities to volunteer, perform community service projects and grow as leaders.
The Central Saint Croix Leo Club is sponsored by the Hammond and Roberts Lions Club chapters, Roberts Lions member Geno Hanson said.
“We share a community, but with two separate identities,” Hanson said of the Hammond/Roberts area. “We need to work together a lot more. We want to make it seamless, and not just be known by one town. The district is conducive to that since the kids are together at school.”
The idea kind of grew from bringing the mud volleyball tournaments back to Good Neighbor Days, Hanson said.
“It used to be a lot of older high school and college kids that entered the tournament,” Hanson said. “But now the demographic has changed. We’re seeing a lot of middle school kids, and they kind of seem left out. We need something for ‘tweeners’ to do.”
Hammond Lions president Jay Ditlefsen agreed, saying its been a challenge for the Lions to find ways for tweeners to participate in Hammond Heartland Days.
“We thought it would be really cool to have something for both high school and middle-schoolers to do,” Ditlefsen said.
They approached both St. Croix Central Middle School principal Scott Woodington and high school principal Glenn Webb, both Lions themselves, with the idea. It was easy to get the green light.
“We heard from high-schoolers that to apply for scholarships and colleges, they need community service on their applications. A Leo Club will give them experience and it’s a way to do that,” Hanson said.
The club meets two Sundays a month, Queen said. One day is used for planning and brainstorming, the next is used to perform a community service project. So far, through word of mouth, the group has attracted 12-15 members.
“It’s been a slow start to with summer here and getting the kids acclimated to running a club,” Hanson said.
Hanson expects the club numbers to grow when school starts in the fall, especially because the current members are so enthusiastic about recruiting.
The club is an Alpha Leo Club, meaning participants are 12-18 years old. An Omega Leo Club is comprised of adults 18-30 years old, but Hanson said people that age might as well join the Lions. A Leo Club is a feeder organization for the Lions, and both Hanson and Ditlfesen are hoping Leo members will eventually become Lions, whether it’s here or in a different community.
“Kids are joiners when their parents are involved in things,” Ditlefsen said.
Queen, who won a coin toss to become president after a tied vote with vice president Kerstyn Johnson, said she loves what the Leo Club stands for.
“I really like volunteering and helping out,” Queen said. “I like the idea that there aren’t merit badges involved. People want to be there for fun and to help, not just to get something out of it.”
So far the group has painted the 4-H shelter at Roberts Village Park and helped the Roberts Lions clean up fireworks debris after Good Neighbor Days last month.
“The Lions were overbooked and overworked and that really helped us out,” Hanson said of the group cleaning up fireworks debris.
Other projects the group is considering are hosting a dance for senior citizens, helping with Hammond Heartland Days in August and collecting eyeglasses donations in the schools.
More than 160,000 youth in 140 countries are members of Leo Clubs. The first club was chartered on Dec. 5, 1957, in Pennsylvania. The Lions adopted the Leo program in October 1967.
For more information on the Central Saint Croix Leo Club, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Central-Saint-Croix-Leo-Club/251269121726161 or email Queen at firstname.lastname@example.org.