'Sorry to see it go': Greencastle-Antrim Lioness Club disbands after decades of service

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

Members of the Greencastle-Antrim Lioness Club came together for one final time June 19 as the club is ready to disband at the end of the month after more than 40 years in the community.

"We can hold our heads up high and say this is what we accomplished. We can be proud of everything we've done for the community over the years," said Suanne Miller, club president and a member for 41 of its 42 years.

Members of the Greencastle-Antrim Lioness Club got together for one final time on June 19. After 42 years in the community, the club will disband on June 30, 2021.

The Greencastle-Antrim Lioness Club was chartered in 1979 and has raised over $400,000, which has been given back to community. Members have volunteered for everything from vision screenings for school students to serving hot chocolate at Greencastle's annual Heritage Christmas celebration. They've enjoyed much fellowship and camaraderie along the way.

"As of July, there definitely will be a void in Greencastle and Antrim Township, where our presence was felt throughout for so long," said Janice Wene Haas, a 38-year member and club historian.

Decision to disband

The vote to disband was precipitated decades ago when Lions Clubs International started decreasing support for local Lioness Clubs as Lions Clubs started accepting female members.

"Lions Club International is where everything is determined. Over the years, the support has dwindled down to being able to use the logo and having insurance as a service organization of the Lions Club," said Joann Williams, a former governor of Lions District 14T, which includes Franklin, Dauphin, Juniata and Perry counties; a member of the Greencastle Lions Club; and a charter member of the Mercersburg-area Buchanan Lioness Club, which also voted to disband.

As of June 30, insurance and use of the logo end, basically cutting off Lioness Clubs completely, according to Williams.

Like Greencastle-Antrim and Buchanan, many Lioness Clubs have voted to fold.

"They're going to be missed in our community," Williams said. "It really saddened me to have this happen."

Another option was to become a Lioness Lions Club open to both women and men, which the former Waynesboro Area Lioness Club did in 2016, when it was chartered as the Waynesboro Area Lioness Lions Club.

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Former Lionesses also can join a Lions Club and so far one G-A Lioness has become a Greencastle Lion.

Forty ballots were sent to G-A Lioness members in December, with 34 voting to disband, according to Miller.

"Four of us counted the paper ballot votes on Jan. 6, and as I was driving home, it started to really sink in," Haas said. "'Soon it all will be gone. Forever,' I thought while driving on U.S. 11. It honestly felt as if I had just learned of the death of a good friend or relative."

A community service organization

"We were definitely a service organization ... always willing to help in any way we could," Miller said.

A list of that help goes on and on and on and includes "any need or worthy cause in town," Miller said.

President Suanne Miller spoke at the last meeting of the Greencastle-Antrim Lioness Club before it disbands on June 30, 2021.

Financially the Lioness Club has been a backer of organizations including, but certainly not limited to, Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library, Jerome R. King, local food pantries, Allison-Antrim Museum, the Exchange Club, Rescue Hose Co., Medic II and Tayamentasachta.

A scholarship for a Greencastle-Antrim student planning to go into the medical field has been awarded annually for more than 20 years. And, in partnership with the Lions Club, Greencastle-Antrim High School Students of the Month have been honored throughout many school years.

With eyesight being a Lions Clubs International focus, Lionesses would make purchases for blind children in the community, donate to the Lions diabetes bowl-a-thon since diabetes is a leading cause of blindness and pay for eye glasses and eye exams for people in the community who could not afford them.

The fall and Christmas bazaar was one of the major fundraisers for the Greencastle-Antrim Lioness Club. Shown here in 1982 are: seated, from the left: “Cass” Stickell, Chairman Brenda Uccellini, Crafts Chair Viola Ervin, Vera Barkdoll and Ellen Dillworth; standing: Dorothy Alloway, Madeline Holford, Jean Zimmerman, Sue Miller, Cora Crider and Em Uccellini.

The Penny Harvest, collecting pennies at meetings for the purchase of large-print books at the library — about 150 over the years — was one activity noted by charter member Jean Zimmerman, who reminisced about fashion shows, bazaars and contributing to three Lioness cookbooks.

Members would go to Heritage Hills retirement home to play bingo with the residents; serve a meal to cancer survivors and set up luminaries at the Greencastle Relay For Life; and make upwards of 100 cakes for the Rescue Hose Co. carnival cake wheel.

The three main fundraisers were bingo, a fall and Christmas bazaar and a baked goods and other items sale at the Greencastle Lions Club pancake breakfast.

The Lions motto is "We Serve" and the Lioness motto is "We Serve, Too," and the ladies often helped the Lions, including Easter egg hunts and White Cane Day.

The Greencastle-Antrim Lioness Club's work in the community was recognized in a joint proclamation from Antrim Township and the Borough of Greencastle.

Antrim Township and the Borough of Greencastle listed many of the contributions of the G-A Lioness Club in a joint proclamation issued June 22 that concludes, "Our great appreciation is extended to all past and present members who gave so much of their time to so many worthy projects."

Signature Old Home Week events

Two of those "worthy projects" — the flower show and the fun dog show during Greencastle-Antrim's triennial Old Home Week — may continue. Both events were created and run members of the Lioness Club.

People checked out the entries in the Greencastle-Antrim Lioness Club's flower show during Old Home Week in 2019.

Charter member J. Lorraine "Dolly" Shoemaker remembers starting the flower show, then chairing it for many years.

"I've always been interested in flowers, and I had my own store," said Shoemaker, referring to the Flower and Gift Nook.

The show includes a variety of competition categories, professional judges and refreshments.

"It was nice to see everyone coming in, looking at the flowers, getting together with friends they hadn't seen in a while and enjoying goodies," Miller said.

Lioness Cora Crider, shown here in 2019, initiated the Old Home Week Fun Dog Show sponsored by the Greencastle-Antrim Lioness Club in 2004.

The fun dog show became an OHW event in 2004 and originated with Lioness Cora Crider, who served as chairman for many years. The show lives up to the "fun" in its name, attracting dozens of four-legged competitors and hundreds of two-legged spectators.

"I think we might be able to get enough people to pull them together, but not under the auspices of the Lioness Club," Miller said. "The ladies sounded like they want to continue. I can't say for sure, but I don't want them to fade away. They're well-liked and well-received."

Charter member memories

Memories filled the belated 42nd anniversary celebration and final meeting at Mrs. Gibble's Restaurant, which included recognition of charter members Betty J. Fisher, Zimmerman and Shoemaker. All three also served terms as club president.

Charter members Jean Zimmerman, left, Betty J. Fisher and J. Lorraine 'Dolly' Shoemaker were recognized at the last meeting of the Greencastle-Antrim Lioness Club.

"Several women from the Hagerstown Lioness Club came and talked with some women in Greencastle who may be interested in starting a service club here," Zimmerman recalled. "We were interested, so information was given what we had to do to get started."

"My husband (Fred) was a Lion and I knew they did good things for the town, so seemed like a good thing to do," Fisher said.

The three noted the many contributions to the community as well as the good times the members had together.

"We made great donations to the community and individuals," Zimmerman said. "We had great activities and were always busy."

"It was fellowship away from home. I always enjoyed it," Shoemaker said.

"Anything anybody asked us to do, we did," said Fisher.

The message on the cake for the final meeting of the Greencastle-Antrim Lioness Club.

She remembered times filled with laughter, including one meal at Tayamentasachta, the Greencastle-Antrim School District Environmental Center. It was a little hilly and when four women all sat on one side of a picnic table, it flipped. They had food all over and had to go home and change.

A trip to visit G-A's sister Lioness Club in Canada included visits to Leader Dogs for the Blind and Niagara Falls, as well as a very noisy bus full of women. Fisher thought things would quiet down on the return trip, "but it was just as bad."

"It was a nice club, and I'm surely sorry to see it go," Fisher said.

"I'm sad it's disbanding, I hate to see it go that way. It's a good club, we had a lot of good times and a lot of good friends," Shoemaker said.