WHO ARE THE EDEN PRAIRIE LIONS?
We are men and women, drawn together in a spirit of service and fellowship, who volunteer our time and talent to humanitarian causes in our local and world communities. By conducting service projects and raising funds, we strive to help those in need, wherever need exists. Our motto is “We Serve.” Today our Club has more than 80 members.
Eden Prairie Lions Club is located in the city of Eden Prairie, a prosperous Minnesota community of over 55,000 residents located just west of Minneapolis.
In 1960 Eden Prairie was a small, rural village of about 2,000 people. Late that year a group of local men decided to form a Lions Club. Although the group wasn’t officially chartered until January 1961, the club had its first meeting on October 17, 1960 at the Fellowship Hall of the Presbyterian Church. During this meeting they decided future meetings would take place on the first and third Mondays of each month at 6:30pm and that the Prairie Hotel Restaurant would be the club’s official meeting place.
The Lions first official project occurred that holiday season. Truman Bates, the chairman at that time, donated a 15-foot blue spruce tree to be cut down on his property. This tree was then transported to Eden Prairie School and decorated with lights. Before the year was up, the Lions made a commitment to the community to provide eyeglasses to anyone who needed them but could not afford them.
When the club was officially chartered, they numbered 41 members. Shortly after that the Lions launched their first fund-raising project: a light bulb sale. 750 bags of bulbs were sold and the Lions raised $1500!
In June of 1961 the Lions hired a director by the name of Dave Dillon to organize a summer recreation program for the community. This was quite successful and the following year the village took this over.
In September of the same year the Lions sponsored the first annual community picnic. Over 500 residents attended and were treated to free hot dogs, a band concert, planned games, ice cream and pop.
1962 saw the Lions become even more involved in the community. For example, they supported the High School by sponsoring a dinner to honor the football students and their parents, sent the seniors to the Guthrie Theatre, and donated money to help pay for band uniforms.
In August 1963 the first annual Golf Tournament was held at Cedar Hills Golf Club.
The first Lions awards night was held in February 1964. Lions and their spouses were invited, and recognition was given to a number of Lions for outstanding service.
The first Schooner Days event was held in June of 1964, although it was originally called Prairie Schooner Day. It was held in the pasture of Lion Larry Wilson on Riverview Road. They had a good-sized parade including a procession of small children, 4 high school marching bands, floats, etc. They raised $1100.
As Schooner Days became bigger and raised more funds, the Lions Club eagerly reinvested back into the community. With fundraising activities in full swing, the Lions Club bought the village their first fire truck ($10,000) and rescue vehicle ($4000). And beginning in 1966, the Prairie Schooner Program that had been originally published for Schooner Days had evolved to become the Eden Prairie Directory and was provided free to every resident at a cost to the Lions Club of $2,000 per year.
Over the first ten years the Club supported many organizations and causes. Among them were:
- Foreign Exchange Students
- Little League Baseball
- Boy Scouts
- Girl Scouts
- Sent special education children to the circus
- A High School Graduation Party
- A beauty contest
- A Pediatric Eye Clinic at the University of Minnesota
- Sent underprivileged kids to the Old Log Theatre
- Promoted School Bus Shelters
- “Children at Play” signs
- Citizen of the Year Award