In 1961, Woodstock’s population was around 780. Several situations came together to spur the creation of a local civic group. The town doctor was retiring and the search for a new doctor hinged on the support of local citizens and charitable and civic organizations.
The downtown business district was experiencing exciting changes, including the arrival of Keenum’s Pharmacy. Morgan Woodstock Hardware opened as well, and will also celebrate 50 years this year, making it the oldest business to operate continuously in town. Groups such as the PTA, Woodstock Garden Club, Scout troops, and various church groups held fundraisers and spear-headed projects. But there had not been a club that encompassed the community at large.
When Woodstock Lions was chartered, it boasted 50 members. They came from every walk of life, bringing their talents, their expertise and their influence together for the common good. The original roster included a banker, a florist, a television repairman, clergymen, and Lockheed and Western Electric workers. Farmers, a funeral director, department store owners, store clerks, plumbers, electricians, an architect and barbers were listed. Workers and owners in the poultry industry, the lumber business, restaurants, nursery and greenhouses, and Georgia state employees helped to make up the membership. The postmaster, a sewing machine repairman, a tire sales and service owner, a used car parts dealer, a newspaper linotype operator who happened to be the mayor at the time ... all came together to make up the Woodstock Lions.
For 50 years, they have been a visible force in the community. Inspired by the challenge of Helen Keller to the Lions International convention in 1925, the Lions focus is on sight and vision. As a chapter of Lions International, the largest service organization in the world, Woodstock members have been committed to Lion-related projects such as White Cane Day, the Georgia Camp for the Blind, eyeglass recycling, and providing free eye exams to those in need. Other civic projects include flag displays, sponsorship of the STAR Student awards night with the Canton Lions, contributions of time, money and energy to the public library, family violence center, teacher appreciation, and various needs that arise. Fundraisers throughout the years have included annual chicken dinners in their early years, concessions at events and recreation parks, sales of brooms, mops, light bulbs, pecans and oranges, and a variety of events such as pancake breakfasts and steak dinners.
Pride in their organization is apparent in their enthusiasm and passion. The club is now co-ed. A Woodstock Lioness Club, formed in 1985, was absorbed by the Woodstock Lions Club in 1988, making it the first Lions Club in Georgia to admit women. Membership now is just short of 50.
Any story about this club would be incomplete without a mention of the one charter member who has remained faithful throughout the entire 50 years. Denver Rainey is the consummate Lion, representing Lionism in every aspect.
At the annual picnic/installation and award night recently, he was given a 100 percent attendance/achievement award and was asked if he had 49 others. He served as president of the club twice. He has held numerous offices and committee assignments, and has served many times as a director. He has received awards, including the Lion of the Year, the Melvin Jones Award named for the founder of Lions, and inclusion in the District 18A Hall of Fame.
His service to the Georgia Camp for the Blind includes 20 consecutive years of attending at least once each year the annual Work Week there. He sets a high standard, a great example for the next generation to follow.
Congratulations are in order for Denver and his very supportive family, wife Deloris, and daughters Pam and Cheryl.
Congratulations to all the other Lions, past and present, who have been a part of this very special group. They have lived up to their motto “We Serve,” and they look forward to continuing that tradition for many years to come.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and the former director of the Woodstock Public Library.