POULSBO — When Frank and Mabel Raab founded the local Bellringer Fund in the 1940s, members of the Poulsbo Lions Club would solicit donations and then shop for toys and food for those in need.
“They’d prepare the food baskets and deliver them personally to the families,” said John Macdonald, current Poulsbo Lions Club president. “And they’d get bicycles donated and repair them so they could give them to the kids who wanted bikes from Santa.”
For more than 70 years, the Poulsbo Lions have been organizing the Poulsbo Lions Raab Foundation Bellringer Fund. The club is 75 years old and was founded in 1942. It was club charter member Frank Raab who first got members to give to those in need during the holidays.
“For years, there was two of us — me and Dennis Tesch — who would take requests for help,” Macdonald said. “We’d go through the applications and try to fulfill the needs. Back when this started, there was no [North Kitsap] Fishline. But several years ago, we began to realize that there are local organizations who do this every day. So we partnered with them.”
Now, the donations are shared between Fishline, ShareNet, St. Vincent dePaul and Poulsbo’s Coffee Oasis. Those organizations decide how to spend the funds each receives. Most are used to help low-income families and individuals during the holiday season, when tight wallets and colder weather compels many people to choose between food and heat.
“Those organizations do a wonderful job of helping people,” he said.
The Lions added Coffee Oasis because of its work helping at-risk youth.
Macdonald said the community has always been supportive of the fund.
“It’s different every year,” he said. “But in the past 10 years, we’ve raised $275,000. In 2008, when the economy was so bad, we raised more than $40,000 in one season.”
This year’s goal is set at $35,000.
“What’s so great about this fund is that every dollar stays local,” he said. “And there is no overhead. Not one penny is spent on administering the fund.”
The tradition of helping others is part of what the Poulsbo Lions do throughout the year. As a community service group, Lions have built boardwalks in Fish Park, and three of the viewing platforms. They recently gave $13,000 to the Maritime Museum; the funds were raised at the club’s annual auction.
Members hand out dictionaries to elementary students each year. They also host a “Hooked on Fish” adventure for kids on the opening day of trout season.
“We call it that because we want kids to be ‘Hooked on Fish,’ not drugs,” Macdonald said. “We stock the pond behind the high school with more than 100 trout.”
To date, the club has 88 members, both men and women. The average age is 61. Anyone 18 years of age or older can join. One group meets at noon and another meets in the evening so that anyone can participate.
Lions International is known for its work on vision projects. It sponsors White Cane Days on the first weekend in May throughout the world, and money raised is given to eye research and to buying eye glasses for those who cannot afford them. In Poulsbo, the Lions have a program where they give free vision screenings to more than 300 elementary-aged students each year.
Locally, they also give scholarships to high school students. “That’s where the money goes from our pancake feed at Viking Fest every year,” Macdonald said.
The Lions also have Leo clubs at each junior and senior high school in North Kitsap. Students perform community service projects. One of Leos’ larger projects is hosting blood drives throughout the year.
“The students are very involved and they learn about giving back to their community,” he said.
Macdonald has been a Lion for 41 years. For the past 30, he’s been co-chairman of the Bellringer Fund, along with Tesch. It just wouldn’t be the holidays without Bellringer, he said.
“We will take donations to the Bellringer Fund all throughout the year,” he added. “But it’s the tradition of doing this at the holidays which makes it so important.”
To find out more about the Poulsbo Lions, go to www.poulsbolions.blogspot.com.
Donations to the Raab Poulsbo Lions Raab Foundation Bellringer Fund are tax-deductible. Donations can be mailed to Bellringer Fund, P.O. Box 1244, Poulsbo, WA 98370. Donations are also accepted at the North Kitsap Herald, 19351 8th Ave. NE, in Poulsbo. Donations are listed each week in the Herald and on KitsapDailyNews.com.
This week’s contributors:
Dr. Craig Benson: $300
Anonymous: $300, in loving memory of Tony and Elsie Mandio and Bil Seaman
Richardson Trust: $100, in loving memory of Harold Richardson, Greg Richardson, Leo and Helen Strand, Claude, Sr. and Lettie Richardson, Claude, J. and Sandi Richardson
Walk n’ Talk Group at First Lutheran Church: $500
Judith Fuhrer: $200, in loving memory of Ed and Louise Shields
Elda and Herbert Armstrong: $100, in memory of family and friends
Norma Bailey: $50, in memory of Grant Foster Jr. and Robert Bailey and family passed
LeAnn Mong: $100 in loving memory of Doug, Delores and Fritz
Lynn Marie Corbat: $60
James Groh and Mary Swoboda-Groh: $350, in memory of Jim Henry
Chris Cribbs: $50
Marty Ellis: $50
Chris Rahl: $70
Carl Johnson: $50
Sue Gibbs: $50
Chris Morrison: $200
Dave Musselman: $50
John Warnke: $50
Jake Gillanders: $40
Jeffrey Griffin: $50
Lise and Timothy Alkire: $50
David Carpenter: $50
Bryson and Lynnae Eader: $50
Thomas and Deanna Harvey: $50
Kevin Vay: $50
Christopher Strickland: $50
Frank Leamer and Karen Myren, MD: $50
Travis and Corinne Beach: $50
Cynthia and Joshua Warter: $50
Jody Watson: $50
Craig Becker: $50
Andrew Plenge: $50
Justin Zeigler: $50
Regan Sytsma: $50
Stephen and Meredythe Behal: $50
Shane and Julie Keeley: $50
James Gillard: $50
Bruce and Erin Peterson: $100
Trevor Holmberg: $50
Ed McLaughlin: $50
Kurt Serwold: $100
Jeff and Julie McGinty: $100, in memory of Jim and Loraine Ray
WEEK TOTAL: $3,870