The Old Lion turns 60

In 1958, NASA was established, the first Toyota car was sold in the United States, Ford introduced the Edsel, Boeing launched the 707, and Wham-O brought out the Hula Hoop. The No. 1 song in ‘58 was “Volare.”

Roger Welch pours sugar and Jim Blubaugh stirs as the Rappahannock Lions Club makes another annual batch of tasty apple butter. Courtesy photo

Here in Rappahannock, another important event occurred that year. One of the more underappreciated forces in the county was chartered — the Rappahannock Lions Club. Back then, it was a group of men who pooled their resources to do as a group those things which they couldn’t do by themselves. Now the Lions Club has both men and women members, and this week they observe their 60th anniversary.

The number of community services involving the Lions is impressive. They provide free vision and hearing testing for all children in the county, even those who are only toddlers. They provide funding for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, for 4-H Camp, for evening and summer youth athletic programs, and for Eagle Scout programs that benefit the community. They support the Leo Clubs at Rappahannock County High School and Wakefield Country Day in their road cleanup projects.

They provide free eye exams and glasses for those who can’t financially afford them. They provide scholarships to county graduating students who express a desire to enter into any of a number of public service areas, such as law enforcement, health care or teaching. They are a mainstay of the annual Rappahannock Night Dinner at Camp Fantastic (for kids with terminal cancer). They provide funding for the Veterans Day Observance at the high school, for After Prom Night at the high school, for the Shop with a Deputy program, and for the Senior Center. They hold the county’s only juried music competition – the annual Jimmy Bland Music Contest. They handle the parking and traffic for the annual Christmas Parade.

And, of course, there is that big yellow and white tent you see everywhere, which the Lions erect free for any County nonprofit. It was there for Saturday’s Fodderstack 10K Race, and it will be seen again at the upcoming Relay for Life.

Lion President Ross O’Donoghue cites another important Lions program. “The Lions have raised $10,000 for the fire and rescue squads of the county through their Shop-Like-A-Lion program. It allows any online shopper at Amazon or Walmart to contribute, at no cost, 4 percent of their purchase. It’s an innovative and easy way to get free money for the squads.” (Details are at

“This is all important stuff,” said former Lions President Larry Grove. “These are the kinds of things that make our community special. It is the power of organized good.”

Jim Blubaugh, who has been with the Lions since 2005, first thought the Lions would be like the organizations he saw on television as a youngster — “The Honeymooners” and “The Flintstones.”

“I thought that they were a group that wore funny robes and had secret ceremonies,” said Blubaugh. “Then I saw them at Camp Fantastic, serving dinner to kids with terminal cancer, all without fanfare or publicity. They were normal men and women from Rappahannock, like me, trying to do something important for others. That’s when I decided to join.” (Membership details are at

The Lions are especially proud of the fact that they cover all administrative expenses from their dues, so that all of the money they receive from fundraising goes back into the community.

The 60th anniversary adds heft to this year’s Lions Club’s annual Charter Night gathering, taking place tonight (Thursday) at Narmada Winery.

The Club’s members (I’m one, too) deserve thanks and support for 60 years of community service. So when you see members selling apple butter or tickets to their annual ChiliFest, or when you take part in Give Local Piedmont next Tuesday, give them a shout out. It’s well deserved after six decades.