By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
More than 100 Alabama Lions left Atmore Saturday and Sunday, reportedly taking with them a good impression of their host city.
Atmore Lions Club, itself 97 years old, apparently was a gracious host for the 100th Alabama Lions Clubs State Convention, as the consensus among local club members who interacted with the visitors is that they had a natural-born good time.
“We had people from Ft. Payne, Gulf Shores, Birmingham, Montgomery, just all over,” said ALC President-Elect Chuck Brooks, who joined Outgoing President Taylor Helton Lee and numerous other club members in working out the logistics of being a convention host. “There were around 125 folks here and they rented 80-something rooms at the Holiday Inn Express.
“Everybody had a good time and enjoyed our town. They went shopping in our stores and were eating at our restaurants. People from the bigger cities were really impressed with our city.”
The conventioneers began arriving Thursday, April 28, and didn’t conclude their business until Sunday, May 1. In between were business meetings at The Club, dinners and dancing … and service projects.
Following Thursday night’s welcoming dinner at Wind Creek’s Fire Restaurant, Lions from across the state joined in Friday to conduct service projects in all five areas of the Lions credo.
Nancy Karrick, an Atmore Lion who manned the registration desk during the convention (the first ever held here), reported that local and visiting Lions worked side-by-side to complete the various projects.
“Friday morning, members spread all over Atmore, serving those in need,” Karrick said. “Trash was picked up along Highway 31, and members were accompanied by police and patrol cars from the Atmore Police Department. The Lions Mobile Sight Unit was based in the parking lot of First Baptist Church for eye exams and fittings for glasses. The mobile vision clinic was moved to The Club later in the day and stayed there until Saturday afternoon.”
Lions also collected food in the Walmart parking lot, established donation boxes for Camp Rap-a-Hope and for childhood cancer at The Club, and held a Diabetes Walk at Rivercane. Each of these projects was overseen by an Atmore Lions Club member.
Kenny Smith handled food collection; Anne Hetzel was in charge of the trash pickup; and Renee Hardy headed up the diabetes walk. Kevin Garrett oversaw the vision-related activities. Local Lion Joyce Petty provided floral arrangements for the gathering.
Business meetings and social events continued throughout the weekend. Convention attendees enjoyed a Friday “seafood shindig” prepared by David’s Catfish House. The evening also included music from the Southern Approach band.
The actual opening ceremonies were held Saturday morning. The day, which included lunch from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, included the official entrances of the Council of Governors and Lions Clubs International guests, as well as a parade of banners and other formalities. Past International President Bob Corlew spoke on Identifying and Developing Leaders.
Saturday night’s major activity was the District Governor’s Banquet, which was catered by South Alabama Vending and gave participants a chance to dress up, socialize with members from other clubs and share ideas.
Sunday’s final business included a necrology service to recognize members who passed away over the past year, as well as the introduction of the state’s 2022-23 Council of Governors.
Atmore officially got another feather in its cap when local resident Bub Gideons was installed as District Governor for Alabama Lions District 34-C, which includes Atmore and 26 other clubs in cities or towns located in the bottom-third of Alabama.
In a traditional ceremony, Gideons and the state’s two other new district governors donned the District Governor’s Jacket, similar to the Green Jacket ceremony at the Masters Golf Tournament.
“This was a big deal, for Atmore to host a state convention,” Karrick said.
Brooks said he was glad to see the convention come but was glad when it was successfully concluded.
“A lot of folks don’t understand just how much work goes on in putting one of these together,” said the soon-to-be head Lion. “I worked harder this past weekend than I have in a long time. All Atmore Lions Club members had a part in this. They really came out and did a lot of work, setting things up and taking them back down at the end of the day.
“There’s no need to volunteer if you don’t have a volunteer’s spirit. Our club’s members have that spirit.”