BUSINESS PROFILE: Parkers Prairie Lions Club
Parkers Prairie Lions have been making a big impact on their community (and beyond) since 1963
By Jillian Kellerman
That’s the motto of Lions Club International, and that’s exactly what the Parkers Prairie Lions have been doing the last 60 years – locally and internationally – since 1963.
To celebrate their 60 years of service, the Lions recently took a bus trip to reflect on their accomplishments and look ahead at upcoming projects. They started at Henning Golf Course for appetizers and drinks, next on to Spanky’s for dinner, and finishing out the trip at Stella’s for dessert. An awards ceremony was held after their return.
“We like to have fun, but we get our work done,” said Lion Jim Arvidson, who also currently serves as Director on the Minnesota Lions Vision Foundation.
One of the many accomplishments, and one of their proudest accomplishments, was the Prairie Event Center. Parkers Prairie lost their fire hall and other buildings after a gas explosion in 1995. The Lions stepped in to help and was instrumental in its construction.
“We met a week or two after the explosion and somebody said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we had our own community center in Parkers Prairie?’ It was just an idea, but we started putting some money aside and in a couple years we had $50,000,” Jim said. “So that kind of got the attention of other people in town, and pretty soon they started raising money. Over 10 years later, we opened the doors to what’s called the Prairie Event Center – $1.3 million building – all from donated money.”
The first event held in the new Prairie Event Center happened in 2007 and was held by the Lions for a charter celebration and dinner. Past International Director (PID) Ross Thorfinnson was the speaker at that event.
“He got up to speak and the first thing he said was, ‘Small towns aren’t supposed to be able to do this.’ But we did.” Jim said.
An L.C.I.F. (Lions Club International Foundation) grant for $75,000 was also received in Parkers Prairie to help build the new City Hall after the explosion.
Other projects the Lions have supported through contributions include the Lake Adley Park, the high school football field lights, the community swimming pool, the new Veteran’s Park, the construction of park shelters and the restoration of the steam engine threshing machine.
Lion Mark “Doc” Helgeson refers to the Parkers Prairie Lions as “Silent Heroes.”
“It’s nice to see a picture in the local newspaper of the Lions presenting a check, but it’s all that goes on behind the scenes that I really like – cooking food, picking the road ditch, moving a wheelchair ramp – these are the important things. There’s hardly anything in this community that hasn’t been touched by the Lions.”
To help fund many of the projects the Lions contribute to, one of their biggest fundraisers is the infamous Smelt Fry. Jim said the very first Smelt Fry fed about 200 people. Now they serve as many as 1,500.
The Fall Festival is also a big event in the community, and they had about 130 units in the last parade.
“That’s a big parade for a small town,” Jim said.
Other fundraisers include a steak fry, a food booth and raffle at the annual Classic Car Show, a snowmobile run, and a four-wheeler run.
To further advance their involvement, the Lions Club promotes youth in the community. They sponsor the Scout troops, the Athlete of the Year award, the eighth-grade science trip to the Black Hills, along with vision and hearing projects in the area.
“A lot of what we do is trying to find the resources within the community for the betterment of the community,” said Lion Greg Trumm, who also serves as Secretary for the Parkers Prairie Lions.
On a district level, the Lions outreach included people from all the district clubs traveling to Nisswa to pack food for food shelves. Jim said over 400 people showed up and they packed 104,200 meals in three hours.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “We did it together. It just shows what can be done when you have more people coming together to help.”
On a larger scale, the Lions contribute on an international level by serving on a Mission Trip to Mexico. The Lions partner with an eye doctor and travel out to smaller villages fitting children for glasses.
Jim added that the Lions’ pride, as well as the pride in the community, is apparent.
“We refer to ourselves as a small community with big ideas. We’re very progressive,” he said.
The impact the Lions Club has had on the Parkers Prairie community does not go unnoticed, and the community is more than willing to pitch in.
“People in Parkers Prairie are proud of Parkers Prairie, and they want to participate,” Greg said.
There is also a women’s group, Pride of the Lions, that have their own events and fundraisers. The two groups work hand in hand on many projects and strengthen the impact of each project.
“A few gals were kind of interested in the Lions but didn’t necessarily want to deal with the guys. So I said, ‘Why don’t you do your own club?’ and they asked, ‘What do we have to do?’ You need to have 20 members to start a new club,” Jim said. “And within 10 days, they had 20 members.”
Jim said the guys and the girls have different ambitions and ideas, but they support one another and are both very successful.
“All Lions clubs throughout the world are connected. We all are working towards the same goals, whether that be locally, nationally, or internationally,” said Jim.
The Parkers Prairie Lions contribute much of their success to being positive and having great members – everybody pitches in, and they like to have fun. Everyone is welcome, and they are thrilled to have younger members joining them.
“We’ve had probably close to a dozen 30- to 35-year-olds and younger coming in the last year,” Jim said. “We’ve grown quite a bit over the years. We were up to as many as 50 members for a while and now we’re at about 45.”
The new members bring new energy and new ideas to the group and help keep the Lions and their mission strong.
“In 2019, when I was 27, I took the step to join the Parkers Prairie Lions Club. Having grown up in Parkers Prairie, I’d always known of the club, but hadn’t fully grasped their impact. Despite being the youngest member at the time, I was eager to learn and engage. Fast forward to now, as an officer, I’ve come to truly understand and appreciate the club’s essence. The Lions Club experience has authentically reshaped my perspective on community and servant leadership. It’s been an integral part of my journey,” said Lion Peter Lind.
The Lions Club presents awards to give recognition for contributions by a Lion that has impacted the community, the district, internationally, or for the Lions in general. Some of the larger awards are the Helen Keller Award through the Vision Foundation and the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award, both of which require a $1,000 donation to the Vision Foundation or L.C.I.F in order to be given the privilege to present the award.
“For many, many years there were only two or three guys that had gotten the Melvin Jones Award. Now, over the last few years, we’ve been able to award a few more – 18 total now,” Jim said. “Over 60 years, that still isn’t very many. So, it’s a prestigious award to get.”
Other awards include the International Presidential Leadership Award, awards through the Diabetes Foundation and the Humanitarian Award, of which Jim says is the biggest achievement.
Jim added that the Lions Club is the largest service organization in the world. They serve in over 200 countries, and have over 1.4 million members worldwide, with a goal this year of 1.5 million members.
Parkers Prairie Lions Club meetings are held on the second and fourth Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Prairie Event Center.
Learn more at www.lionsclub.org.
For more information or to join, please contact Lion Greg at 320-766-8453, or Jim at 218-639-5323, or any other Lions member.
This is a paid business profile. If you would like to learn more about promoting your business in the Sr. Perspective with a business profile, call Jim at 320-334-3344.