Seventy-five years ago a group of businessmen assembled and formed the Ava Lions Club. At that time the men were members and the ladies formed the auxiliary. Over the years many things have changed about the organization and the local projects the lions have sponsored.
Initially, the lions focused on collecting used pairs of glasses. Now their focus has expanded to include testing the hearing of all children in Douglas County; testing eyes for ambliopia (lazy eye), purchasing glasses for those children who cannot afford it as well as paying for the eye exams from certified optometrists. Charter members and their work in the community are listed below. Many of you may remember these individuals for their work and involvement in Ava and the surrounding communities. We hope you enjoy this look backwards and enjoy the memories and the legacy that has been established for the Ava Lions by these Charter Members.
Lz Banta, Ava City Attorney and Douglas County Prosecuting Attorney. He was shot at age 39.
William M. (Bill) Brooks, pharmacist and owner of radio-electrical shop.
Louis Brown, owner of Brown’s Federated Store.
Ben M. Calloway, mayor of Ava and owner of Callaway Oil Company.
Clarence V. Clinkingbeard, owner of Clinkingbeard Funeral Homes of Ava and Gainesville and mayor of Ava.
Jessie H. Coffman, DDS, Ava dentist.
Burman Cummins, Ava City Marshall, owner of Cummins Electric Co., member of Missouri Highway Patrol Reserve, and Missouri Checkers Champion, 1978.
Russell Ferguson, pharmacist and owner of Ferguson Drug Store.
Lowell Gaulding, proprietor of Gaulding Dry Goods.
Marvin Gentry MD, Ava doctor.
Rudy Kester, owner of Kester Auto Sales.
Harry Martin, owner of Martins Livery, Feed and owner of Buick dealership.
E.B. (Boone) Norman, pharmacist and owner of Ava Drug Co.
Oscar Sanders, Circuit Court Recorder.
F.F. Schudy, Ava dentist.
Rev. Jewell M. Smoot, minister of Ava Methodist Church, 1937-1938.
Noel Sutherland, Highway Engineer, Douglas County Clerk for 3 terms.
O.M. Swick, Fire Chief and owner of Ava Dry Cleaners.
D.W. (Dane) Tillman, first manager of the Ava Farmers Exchange. mayor of Ava 1940.
J.E. Curry, editor and publisher of the Douglas County Herald, State Senator 29th district.
Over the years the Lions have also been involved in many community projects and activities. Some of those activities include sponsoring the Halloween Costume Contest on the square.
For over 60 years the Lions have sponsored the costume contest for individuals ranging from new born to over 90 years old. Giving prize money, candy bars and cartons of milk, each year the participants receive several hundred dollars in money and prizes.
The Flaming Fall Revue or Glade Top Trail was assisted by the Lions club which barbecued chickens at Caney Picnic Area and lookout tower site. People enjoyed the dinner, looking at the many colors of turning leaves and heard real hillbilly music played by local musicians.
For many years the Lions sponsored the summer little league baseball program for all the youngsters in the area.
In the early 1970s, the Lions club sponsored a horse show. That group of horse owners coordinated their event which was known as the Fox Trotters horse show. As that event expanded it eventually became known as the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association. It has a large facility just north of Ava on Highway 5 and conducts June and a September annual events. The Lions have remained a vital part of that show by partnering with the MFTHBA to provide concessions for the events.
In 1977 the Lions constructed a 36×50 concrete building to use as a concession stand. In 1993 the Lions expanded the building by adding a 30×60 addition to be used for inside dining. This was a great addition since, it seems, many of the shows encounter rain or colder weather and it provides a place out of the inclement weather where visitors can gather and have lunch in comfort.
The Ava Lions are members of the Ava Area Chamber of Commerce and have supported their efforts by assisting in the annual Christmas Parade and other chamber activites.
Since those early days, the Lions have contributed to the community by providing academic scholarships to high school students and musical scholarships for Ava High School band students to participate in the Missouri Lions All Star Band. That program is under the direction of Jim Norman, retired music teacher.
The Lions have moved their location several times over the years but several years ago, they received a parcel of land just north of the square. They built their own club building which includes meeting and kitchen facilities. The club rents it to families or organizations for use ranging from meetings, garage sales, family reunions, family funeral bereavement facility and Ava alumni class reunions. A few years ago, the Lions began a program called “Valentines for Vets”, which honors combat veterans living in Ava or Douglas County. The veterans are provided a nice meal and are given a shoebox valentine as their way of saying “thank you” to our veterans.
The Lions Club is supported through member dues and through fund raising programs. Those programs include the concession stand at the Fox Trotter horse show, the annual Walk/Run event which takes place each year on the second Saturday in May. Raffles, drawings, donations and memorials are also means of raising funds. All monies received through memorial donations go directly into a building fund which will be used to build a new facility or add an addition to their current building.
During the past 75 years many members have passed through the doors of the Ava Lions Club. Membership has fluctuated, however, the one constant has been their commitment to community service. The commitment to serve the citizens of Ava and the local community has been and will always be the primary purpose.
During the coming year, the Lions will be conducting activities to celebrate the 75th anniversary. The community will be invited to participate in those activities.
So to all the businesses in Ava and all the good citizens in Ava and Douglas County, the Lions say thank you for helping us achieve this milestone and for allowing us to serve you for the past 75 years.
Upcoming events of the Lions include the 5/10K Walk/Run event in May, Project Graduation and the MFTHBA horse show in June.
Interested in becoming a Lion? Contact any Lions member or Larry Morrison, 683-0188, for information.