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West Linn Lions club marks 60th year of service

by: VERN UYETAKE - Mark Parrish flips some of the club's famous Lion burgers at a grill set up for West Linn's centennial celebration at Mary S. Young State Park.  When Mark Parrish returned home from the Iraq War back in 2010, he began to think about how he could continue to serve the community once he retired from the United States Army.

When that retirement day finally came, in 2012, Parrish had found just what he was looking for in the West Linn Lions club. He liked their motto, “We serve,” and the club had plenty of history to back up that claim.

Sixty years, to be exact, as of April. The West Linn Lions celebrated its 60th anniversary this year, though “celebrate” might actually be too strong of a word.

There was no grand event, nothing like the centennial celebration that the city itself put on just last week. The anniversary passed by quietly with a party at the McLean House, and that’s how club members wanted it.

“We often say we’re the best kept secret in West Linn,” Parrish said. “We do so much, but don’t make a lot of noise about it. ... For our celebration, we’re just keeping on with what we do.”

And they do a lot. Just this past year, the Lions donated hundreds of eyeglasses and five hearing aids to children in need, as well as more than $50,000 in scholarship money to high school students. They do shoe and coat drives for children in the winter and also help organize a “Safe Boating for Kids” event each year.

It’s the type of work that has steadily evolved over time since the Lions’ first meeting in 1953, though some only know the club for its famous Lion burgers at city events.

“If you talk to people about the Lions, and I do, the first thing I’ll often hear is, ‘Oh, they make great burgers,’” current president Mike Lindner said. “And I’ll say, ‘That’s great, we appreciate the support, but do you know what we do with the money?’

“The community doesn’t know what we do, and we have to do a better job educating them.”

At a national level, the Lions were founded in Chicago back in 1917 by Melvin Jones, who was looking to combine a number of similar clubs into one.

Three years later, the club had gone international. There are now 46,000 clubs across the world.

The West Linn Lions became part of that intricate web of clubs in 1953, with the goal of making West Linn a better place to live.

“I think our first meeting was on April 26,” Parrish said. “It originally started as a breakfast gathering, and then it kind of morphed into an evening event. ... But it has always been a service club.”

Alongside the service projects, the club’s Lion burgers became a signature specialty and a major source of income. Of course, none of that income stays in house for very long. “If you come to us and we have money in the budget, we’ll give it out,” Parrish said. “Our goal is to raise money and give it away — we don’t hold on to a lot.”

Going forward, as 60 years as a club becomes 61 and beyond, one of Parrish’s goals is to help bring Lions history to life.

“History is something we need to document more,” Parrish said. “Because the club has a pretty rich history.”

The Lions meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Willamette Christian Church on the first and third Thursday of each month. To join or find more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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