|El Paso Downtown Lions Club
|THE HISTORY OF EL PASO DOWNTOWN LIONS CLUB
On May 10, 1923, the International Association of Lions Clubs Granted a
Charter to the Lions Club of El Paso containing the names of 52 original
members. Two and 1/2 months later, on August 19, 1923, a formal
presentation was made by Lions Int’l Vice President W.J. Higgins to the
then 117 members of the Club, all of whom were acknowledged as
charter members. Under the leadership of the Club’s first President,
Gowan Jones, these new Lions undertook their first project, raising funds
to help build a $500,000 Mill to process El Paso Valley cotton for
shipment throughout the United States.
Now, after 91 Presidents, over 2,800 members, more than 5,000
regularly scheduled meetings, and having helped to sponsor six new
Lions Clubs currently in existence, our Club is celebrating its 90th
Anniversary. In memory of those Lions who have served and to those
who currently state, “We Serve”, our Club now proudly acknowledges the
dedication of our members throughout its history.
One of the first public service projects for the Lions Club of El Paso was
the annual canned goods party, where children from throughout the area
were invited to the Plaza Theater and attendees received candy,
goodies, door prizes and a movie, all for the price of a can of food.
During the tenure of this project, the Club collected & distributed tons of
food to the less fortunate in our city.
Upon Chartering the Fabens Lions Club in 1937, the Lions Club of El
Paso became the El Paso Downtown Lions Club. In 1939, our Club,
joining with other Civic Clubs in El Paso, helped officially open the Annual
Sun Carnival activities, mainly by overseeing the Sun Carnival Parade
and our support & participation in the Parade has continued to the
present. El Paso Downtown Lions Club is the only organization in El
Paso that has built and entered a float every year since the parade
In 1941, the Downtown Lions helped sponsor the Ysleta Lions Club and
during this period, though many of our Lions departed for Active Military
Service, we continued as vigorously as ever. As part of the World War II
effort, members bought $50 worth of Defense Stamps at each weekly
meeting and our participation in that one project helped to raise more
than $100,000 worth of Stamps & War Bonds sold. Other war time
projects included the gathering of 365,000 pounds of scrap rubber,
entertaining enlisted men from Ft. Bliss at our meetings, operating
football concession stands to sponsor bingo parties for disabled
Veterans at William Beaumont Hospital, and the paying for phone calls
for Military members to call their families.
On February 16, 1945, the El Paso Downtown Lions Club sponsored the
El Paso Five Points Lions Club and in 1948 the largest project up to that
time was begun with the first annual Minstrel Show, which raised $1000
and became a major source of annual funding for our Club Charities.
During this time period, the Downtown Lions joined with 88 other Lions
Clubs throughout the Country in forming a project called the “Pony
Express”. These Clubs chipped in & bought a pony in Maryland, shipped
it through El Paso and on to California where it was donated to a visually
handicapped girl who had recently moved there from Maryland.
Also, it was at this time that one of the most successful Youth Projects
ever in El Paso was started, the School Safety Patrol Program, which
covered all schools in El Paso County. This Program continues to this
day, sponsored by the Downtown Lions Club, along with the assistance
of the El Paso Police Dept., whereby top school safety patrol Persons
from throughout the area were honored at each weekly meeting with a
certificate, badge & meal. In 2007, when it became difficult for the school
patrol persons to attend a noon meeting, an annual picnic was started to
honor the students.
Having sponsored a Boy Scout Troop, our next project was to organize
the first mile of pennies, collecting over $1000 for charity. In the same
year, the Club bought a bus for the McCall Day Nursery, initiating the
Student Lion of the Month Program, sponsored the Local Soap Box
Derby & hosted the accompanying banquet, sponsored a County-wide
“Go to the Church of your Choice Campaign”, held their 1ST annual
picnic & sponsored their 1ST Baseball Team, which took Fourth Place
and won the Sportsmanship Award.
In 1959, in cooperation with the El Paso Ministerial Alliance, our Club
began participation in Easter Sunrise Services, eventually taking over
sole sponsorship and moving it to McKelligon Canyon. Thousands
attended throughout the years, but with many area Churches now
conducting their own Sunrise Services this Project was
eventually phased out.
During February 1960, our Club sponsored the Skyline Lions Club and in
1968, the Downtown Lions joined with the Juarez Clubo de Leones, the
District Governor, and Lions Int’l President. Dave Evans and local
dignitaries in a ceremony dedicating the Lions Placita Park, designed &
built by Club Members at the foot of the Paso Del Norte Bridge in
Downtown El Paso. That same year, the Club met with advance Secret
Service Agents & received permission to distribute Mexican & American
Flags to spectators who lined what is now the bridge of the Americas into
Mexico, to watch & welcome Presidents Johnson & Diaz as they shook
hands and signed the Chamizal Treaty.
On September 27, 1969, the Downtown Lions sponsored the Sun City
Lions Club. Our Club continued its numerous fund raising activities with
Super Bowl Raffles, selling refreshments at the Fox Plaza swap meets,
light bulb sales and sponsoring a mile of quarters which brought in
$5,966.00 for Charity.
On December 18, 1973, our Lions Club helped sponsor the Mountain
Lions Club and the original Dinner with the Miners was begun in 1974.
This annual event, which has continued to this date, has raised more
than $100,000 for the Downtown Lions Athletic Scholarship Fund at
UTEP & then in 1994, a second fund was established called the
Downtown Lions/John Phelan Endowed Academic Scholarship Fund.
Currently (2008), the market value of these funds is nearly $500,000. It
was during this time that Rose Day Sales began, which was our largest
annual fundraiser for many years.
Our fundraising activities have enabled the Downtown Lions Club to
make numerous generous donations, to include furnishing The
Lighthouse for the Blind Library & Resource Center, rebuilding a
dormitory cabin for disabled & diabetic children at the Texas Lions Camp,
building a seal enclosure and bringing various animals into the El Paso
Zoo, and continuous 100% participation every year for the District
Governor’s Charities, just to name a few.
The Downtown Lions have always taken deep pride in our motto, “We
Serve”, through our long standing commitment to helping our fellow
Citizens. Whether serving meals at the El Paso homeless shelter,
answering telephones to raise funds at KCOS Public TV or the black tie &
tennis shoes fund-raisers at UTEP, facilitating the export of donated
ambulances, eyeglasses or medical equipment at the border, to be used
by the Mexican Red Cross, assisting at Goodwill clothing drives, ringing
bells for the Salvation Army or being involved in numerous other
community projects, you will find the men & women of our Club ready to
Additionally, throughout the years, following Helen Keller’s charge to be
“Knights for the Blind”, our Club has never lost its focus supporting sight
programs, such as Lions for Vision, the West Texas Lions Eye Bank &
Eye Health Foundation, Leader Dog for the Blind and Lions World
Services for the Blind.
Our members come from diverse backgrounds & occupations which
allows us to benefit greatly from their expertise & generosity. Whether it
involves the donation of a large meat smoker for preparing bar-b-q
meals to be used as charity fundraisers, finding the manpower &
materials to build a children’s playground at the Battered Women’s
Shelter, obtaining a float frame and jeep to be used in the Sun Carnival
Parade, having an architect to design our projects, building a Gift Shop
at the El Paso Zoo, or numerous other projects, there are always
Downtown Lions ready to insure that the material is available and the job
Members of the Downtown Lions Club have served and continue to serve
as leaders & Directors on many boards and with many diverse agencies
throughout the City. Just a few organizations included in this group are
the Sun Carnival Association, Salvation Army, Rescue Mission, United
Way, Battered Women’s Shelter and the El Paso area Law Enforcement
In 2002, we sponsored the El Paso University Lions Club at UTEP. May
of 2007, a Lions Habitat for Humanity House was dedicated. Downtown
Lions led the way with Lions from the El Paso area in a brisket fundraiser,
which enable a matching grant from LCIF to sponsor the home for a
family with a disabled member. Lions from the greater El Paso are
helped draft plans, dig trenches, hammer, paint, move furniture, and fed
volunteers, all over a 5 month period.
As we look forward to our next 90 years of service to Lions International,
the State of Texas, District 2-T3 and our community, we continue to
recruit men & women who will keep our proud tradition alive. With a Past
Council Chair, 5 Past District Governors, 33 Melvin Jones Fellows, plus
two partners in service also being so honored for their outstanding
contributions to Lionism, 19 Texas Lion Fellows, 2 Jack Weich Fellowship
Awardees, 5 Cullen Akins recipients as the District Lion of the Year and a
member having been inducted into the Texas Lions Hall of Fame, we
have a past to be admired.
While these past accomplishments are noteworthy, we remain secure in
the knowledge that they will simply serve as a challenge to all members
of the Downtown Lions Club. We take justifiable pride in our history,
while at the same time remembering that tomorrow we must continue the
journey of service, commitment & tradition for the next 85 years of the El
Paso Downtown Lions Club.
“IT’S GREAT TO BE A DOWNTOWN LION!”