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Madison Central Lions Club looks ahead while celebrating its 100-year anniversary

The Madison Central Lions Club celebrated its 100th anniversary on Sunday, looking back at the...
The Madison Central Lions Club celebrated its 100th anniversary on Sunday, looking back at the club’s inception back in 1922 while looking ahead to what the future will hold.(Colton Molesky)
Updated: May. 22, 2022 at 10:20 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Madison Central Lions Club celebrated its 100th anniversary on Sunday, looking back at the club’s inception back in 1922 while looking ahead to what the future will hold. Members and supporters met at the Marriott Conference Center in Middleton, where the club hosted a dinner event with speakers and memorabilia from across the decades.

The MCLC started a century ago, with 35 members attending the first charter meeting. The founders began tackling projects immediately, starting visually impaired kids a class to help immigrants adapt to life in the United States and starting the Neighborhood House Project, which offered a training center for people in the area.

“It’s only been since 1925 that we actually began to work on the sight issues when Helen Keller charged us to be knights of the blind,” said MCLC secretary John Jenson, a club member for 42 years.

The organization also helps fund a camp in Northern Wisconsin for kids who are visually impaired and run drives raising donations of corneal tissue to the Eye Bank. In 1956, members of the club helped start the Wisconsin Lions Foundation, a fund that has raised over $250,000 in the following decades.

While members relished in the club’s rich history, Jenson noted the decline in new members over the past decade, saying there are currently just 28 members in Madison’s club.

“(In a) city like Madison, where you really don’t have real estate, you no longer have businesses downtown, so it’s a little hard,” said Jenson.

He added that it is a problem for clubs across the country, which was made worse during the pandemic.

But as Lion Club members look to the future, there is plenty of optimism.

“We’re very excited,” said international first vice president Brian Sheehan. “We’re very excited for the things that happened during the pandemic and now,, especially post-pandemic, it’s a new world out there, and we have to change with it, and we are.”

Sheehan noted adopting more technology for programs like Virtual Lions as a new way to bring clubs to businesses and the next generation of members.

“Madison found ways to still continue to meet and be able to do the things they want to in their community,” said Sheehan.

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