LACIE PIERSON | The Herald-Dispatch
HUNTINGTON — It was safe to say that not one charter member was present this week as the Downtown Huntington Lions Club celebrated its 90th anniversary.
However, it also was safe to say that club member Linden Chiles, 88, held the closest position to a charter member of all of the club’s current members.
“I joined the club in 1952,” Chiles said. “My father-in-law was one of the original members of the club in Huntington, and I was enthusiastic to join the club.”
During the past 60 years, Chiles said he has seen the club go from a club of 50 members, up to more than 100 members, who met at the Prichard Hotel, before settling to about a 30-member group that meets at the Pullman Plaza Hotel the first and third Thursday of each month.
“It always felt like we were working with what we had no matter how many people were there,” Chiles said. “I’ve always thought we do good work with limited people and limited income.”
Chiles is one of many club members and local leaders who will be at the Pullman Plaza Hotel this Saturday — not for a meeting, but for a celebration of 90 years of service and camaraderie.
Earlier this week, Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe issued a proclamation in honor of the anniversary, and he is expected to be one of many people to attend the event.
The Huntington Downtown Lions Club was formed during a meeting of 89 local businessmen in 1922, just five years after the club was founded by a Chicago business leader.
The charter for the Huntington Club was issued on March 11, 1922, making it the fourth club to be chartered in the state, following Charleston, Parkersburg and Wheeling.
Since then, the group has taken to the streets to help with everything from establishing a playground in West Huntington in 1927 and assisting in the relief effort following the 1937 flood to the current co-sponsorship of the Huntington Red Cross Bloodmobile and relief efforts in Wayne County following severe storms that struck the area earlier this month.
Of course, even with all of those efforts, the Lions Club is most noted for its efforts in providing vision care for community members of all ages, said Tom Altizer, treasurer of the Huntington club.
“I think with a lot of clubs, you don’t know what it is they do unless you’re involved in them or you use that service,” Altizer said. “With the Lions Club, we do eye screenings and provide glasses all over the place, and I think those activities are what people notice the most even though we are involved in everything from maintaining athletic fields to helping people recover following a tragedy.”
The Huntington Lions club has purchased more than 13,000 pairs of glasses for un-insured and under-insured residents of Huntington in addition to collecting more than 300,000 pairs of glasses to be recycled and redistributed throughout the world via Lions International.
With all of that work, it might seem like club members could get tired of one another, but Chiles said those experiences only serve to bring them closer together.
“I enjoy it. I enjoy the camaraderie of the members. I’ve gotten to be personal friends with them over the years, and what keeps us together is that we all enjoy what we do,” Chiles said. “We do a lot of good work in the community and nationwide, and the whole reason anyone joins the club is to give back to the community. The friendship just comes in with that.”
That friendship is something Altizer said he hopes can be carried on well into the future.
“We all would like it to continue and grow. I hope the club is able to stay deeply involved in the community like it is,” Altizer said. “I stay in it because I enjoy it, and it provides a service to the community. I hope more people can find that enjoyment through the club.”