ERIE — Bedford Lions Club members last week celebrated a relationship and an anniversary with an establishment here they have come to know well.
They gathered at the Erie Restaurant, their usual meeting spot twice a month, and had southern fried chicken, the same meal they enjoyed the first time they met there 31 years earlier.
In a concession to nostalgia, the dinner price was $6, the same as it was in 1982. The club absorbed the remaining $4 per dinner cost. Normally the Lions get 25 to 30 people who attend their meetings. Last week's attracted about 50, most of them wearing the shimmering yellow vest that signifies Lions Club membership. The club’s charter hangs on the wall in the restaurant.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R., Tipton) made a brief, surprise appearance and offered congratulations. Accompanying him was his daughter, Heidi, a missionary in Uganda. Mr. Walberg’s 7th District includes Monroe County.
For Al Delrue, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Vicki, the event was a chance to reflect on some of his most loyal customers.
“They’re a great bunch of people,” he said of the Lions. “I fix what I want, and they come and eat. Sometimes they require something special. It’s been a great relationship.”
Lions Clubs in Monroe County have come and gone, noted John Cioroch of Lambertville, a longtime member and a past district governor of the group. Today, the Bedford club and the Petersburg-Summerfield Lions Club are the only ones left, he said, adding that the Bedford club dates to 1969.
The Rev. Bill Paul, retired pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Temperance and a longtime Lion, attributed the group’s longevity to its overriding mission of public service.
“This club has had its ups and downs, but this club is flourishing. What’s the difference? The difference is this club has an attitude. It gets something done,” he said in his address after the meal.
He recalled a club that played bingo during its meetings, and explained that clubs such as this “didn’t last because they weren’t dedicated to helping people.”
The Bedford club raises most of its money through a resale shop it operates on Lewis Avenue north of Temperance Road, and spends about $100,000 annually on scores of good causes, Mr. Cioroch said. These include scholarships, holiday gift cards, and financial support for many groups helping people and animals.
Mary Kay Thayer, a former Monroe County commissioner and the Bedford club’s first female member, said she was drawn to the Lions because she has a deaf daughter and the group has been generous to organizations helping the hearing impaired.
Mr. Walberg thanked the Lions for their works. “Government can’t do everything. Maybe you know that already,” he said.