ALTAMONT – A group of Lions in Altamont this month are celebrating 80 years of service to the community.

In 1938, a group of Altamont businessmen started holding meetings as a community organization. After getting a sponsorship from the Vandalia Lions Club, it became the chartered Altamont Lions Club by Lions Clubs International on Jan. 10, 1939.

According to current Altamont Lions Club President Lynn Kull, his father, Woodrow Kull, was president of the club when it was chartered all those years years ago.

Kull said first vice president of the Altamont organization today, Steve Stice, is a third-generation member of the club. His father, Jim Stice, and grandfather, Earl Stice, were both members of the organization. Earl Stice served as first vice president when the club was chartered.

Kull said another multi-generational club member is Cory Miller. He and his father, Charlie Miller, both served as president of the Altamont Lions Club. Charlie Miller served as president from 1988-1989 and Corey Miller from 2012-2013.

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson was extended an invitation to the 25th anniversary of the Altamont Lions Club in 1964. The president responded to the invitation with a Western Union telegram saying he was not able to attend due to an "Urgency of National affairs."

Johnson's telegram recognized two Altamont Lions Club members, Earnest Ballard and Woodrow A. Kull, for their longevity of service to the Altamont Lions organization. Along with Kull, Ballard also was a charter member of the Altamont Lions Club.

Over the years, the organization has been involved with several community service and fundraising projects, such as collecting over 1,000 glasses to be recycled by the Lions Club Foundation, donations to the local high school soccer program, Effingham County Shop with a Deputy program, purchasing a defibrillator for Gilbert Park, Altamont Grade School's backpack program, the Altamont High School baseball team, and helping purchase hearing aids and glasses for adults in the community.

Kull has been an Altamont Lions Club member for the past 35 years and grew up around the club when his father was an active member. Over that period of time, Kull has witnessed quite a few changes in fundraising efforts.

“When I was in grade school, the Lions Club would always have at Christmas a lyceum with all cartoons,” Kull said. “We didn't have TVs back then and the only place you saw cartoons was at the movie theater or you would have a film.”

“To get in, you had to bring a can of food,” Kull said. “Then the food was distributed to families in need.”

Kull said today, rather than showing cartoon films at Christmas, the organization does a pack-a-sack drive. Residents are given a sack to fill with food.

Kull proudly displays the original Altamont Lions Club charter received from the International Association of Lions Clubs in 1939 on the wall close to his office.

There were 16 charter members of the Altamont Lions Club and their field of work is listed in the Charter night program used on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 1939, at the Altamont Methodist Church. Charter members include Kull's father, Woodrow A. Kull, undertaker; Walter C. Klitzing, lawyer; R. Babbs, garage; A. Weiler, druggist; Everett L. Haag, athletic coach; W.J. Campbell, banker; R.B. Casey, high school principal; C.E. Ferris, newspaper; P. Gianopulos, candy kitchen; F. Habing, undertaker; Milton Smith, oil magnate; Ernest. C. Ballard, dairy; Harry Schumacher, physician; Edwin B. Carr, hotel; Herman Stettbacher, grocery; and E. F. Stice, telephone.

The club officers listed in the charter program were Woodrow A. Kull, president; Earl Stice, first vice president; Harry Schumacher, second vice-president; E.L. Haag, third vice president; Ed Carr, secretary-treasurer; Earnest Ballard, lion tamer; and Milton Smith, tail twister.

Over the years, two Altamont Lions Club members served as past district governors, Jim Weiss, 2005-2006 and Jim Strange, 2011-2012.

This year's 80th Anniversary celebration took place at the Immanuel Lutheran Church Parish Hall on Thursday night.

The 2018-2019 Altamont Lions officers include Lynn Kull, president; Steve Stice, first vice president; Ryan Osteen, second vice president; Jeff Fleeharty, third vice president; Gene Logue, secretary; Jim Shelton, treasurer; Steve Bailey, lion tamer; Mike Walker, tail twister and membership.

Current club directors include Rich Frailey, Mike Gill, Doug Hill, Charlie Niehaus, Jessie Heischmidt and Jim Strange. Today there are over 30 Altamont Lions Club members.

Charles Mills can be reached at charles.mills@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.