Strong membership drives Punxsy Lions Club

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsutawney Lions Club honored several of its members at a recent dinner.

The club is 67 years old, founded Jan. 4, 1945, and is still going strong at Camp Little Leo in Bell Township, said President Mike Ruffner.

Joe Molitierno, first vice-president and past governor, said Lions Club International has been around since 1917.

The 59-member Punxsy club is the only one in the area that meets year-round, while most of the other clubs take the summer off, Ruffner said. Secretary Denny Rebuck said membership is by invitation only from a current club member.

The club has held its meetings at Camp Little Leo since 1945, said Harold Pearce, three-time past president and senior member. Bob Ishman and Willis McGee did much of the work on the clubhouse on the 240-acre site to make it into the beautiful facility that it is today.

Molitierno said Lions Clubs around the world are known for their work with sight and used glasses.

“It was 1925 that Helen Keller spoke to the international convention, when we became the knights of the blind, and the crusade against darkness first began,” he said.

“Our main thrust is anything we can do to help prevent blindness,” Molitierno said, and that Lions especially give assistance to Third World countries with cataract surgery and providing eyeglasses.

Members clean eyeglasses, and Dr. Warren Riegel, an optometrist in Ridgway, distrubutes the glasses as he travels to remote villages in Central and South America, Molitierno said.

The Boy Scouts also assist the Lions with cleaning and cataloging the approximately 15,000 pairs of glasses collected every year.

Molitierno said old glasses may be deposited at the Big Run branch of Marion Center Bank, Fezell’s County Market and Gigliotti’s Chiropractic.

Joe Sikora Sr. collects the glasses from these locations.

Among its other causes, Ruffner said the Lions also support Bling Camp at Beacon Lodge, Huntingdon and Diabetic Camp. The Lions also contribute funds to PSP Camp Cadet at Clarion University; Boy Scouts; food pantries; Little League; A.J. Parise Football; the Make-A-Wish Foundation; and the lights that illuminate the dike along Mahoning Creek.

Ruffner said after the Lions sent a local girl to a camp for diabetics — where youngsters learn how to be more independent, give their own injections, diet and exercise — near Slippery Rock University, “She has become quite a spokesperson for the camp.”

The Punxsy Lions have also been very instrumental with installing, dismantling and storing the large canopy used for the Groundhog Festival and other events during the summer, Ruffner said.

And after all these years, the club still has its broom and mint fund-raisers.

The Punxsy Lions Club recently held its awards banquet and presented several awards:

• 2012 Lion of the Year — Denny Rebuck

• Past President — Robert Burkett

• Past Treasurer— Marlin Rearick

For more information, contact the Lions Club at 814-938-6160 or visit