The Camas Lions Club in Washougal, Washington, is building community partnerships with the goal of taking on unfulfilled needs in Camas and Washougal. They’re starting by serving those who serve at the beloved Inter-Faith Treasure House.

On Saturday, August 17, Lions came together to address several yard work issues at the house, and worked with Triangle Resources just down the road to cover all the debris removal costs.

The project is hoped to be the first of many, according to Lions Casey and Stephanie O’Dell; the husband and wife team who work as club president and membership chair, respectively.

Lions Club members Dick Golladay (left) and Chris Dierickx (right) cut back an overgrown laurel hedge. PHOTO BY JACOB GRANNEMAN

“The opportunity with the Treasure House presented itself when we got a new member and Casey and I went to visit,” Stephanie said. “We saw all of the good work that other volunteers were doing, but they had this unmet need to do more of a labor-intensive project. And that’s exactly what a lot of our membership loves to do.”

Beginning very soon, the club will also formally undergo a thorough Community Needs Assessment to evaluate how the organization can best serve the community. Partnerships with the cities, schools, churches, and businesses are expected to result.

The Camas Lions came ready to work, chainsaws in hand. PHOTO BY JACOB GRANNEMAN

In following with the global tradition of Lions to “serve those with the most need,” the Camas club saw the work being done by the Treasure House as just that. Since 1969, the house has worked with and for those in need of assistance and social services in Camas and Washougal.

“It’s community helping community, and the more we can partner together, the better off our community will be,” said Treasure House Director Nancy Wilson. “That’s just going to make an amazing difference, and then by that, then you don’t have to spend that money and you can buy food with it, or you can pay a utility with it.”

Wilson, who recently became a member of the Camas Lions Club, explained several of the needs at the facility. Now, the club is considering adopting Treasure House as an ongoing project.

Treasure House currently has four staff members in addition to Wilson, along with 150 volunteers who contribute more than 1,000 hours a month to the organization. During the week and Saturday, Treasure House’s food pantry gives out food boxes to people in need.

“We’re always looking for ways to be in the community, what kind of community service things can we do.”

This equates to roughly 6,500 pounds of food going into the community every month, feeding 300 to 400 families, Wilson said.

According to funds, the house also assists Camas and Washougal residents with rent and utility costs, and provides holiday food boxes with Christmas gifts. Recently, the house began the Backpack Program, filling 170 bags of food for students at Camas Schools.

“It’s a great pilot project for how we put projects together,” Casey said. “This is right up our alley. We love doing yard work and cutting things down. We’ve got a lot of people with chainsaws.”

As an annual project, the Camas Lions take point on clean up at J.D. Currie Youth Camp, on the north side of Lacamas Lake. With a small army of tractors and chainsaws, the group cleans the grounds, clears trails, and makes it safe for campers.

At present, the Camas Lions have 28 members and meet twice a month.

“Camas Lions Club is going through a bit of a transformation,” Stephanie said. “We want to do an assessment and figure out what needs our community has that are not being met.”

Stephanie explained that the process of the study will likely take some time, but projects like the one at the Treasure House are opportunities to start having an impact right away and activate members who have a passion for service projects.

The O’Dells also expressed a great desire to network with more businesses, schools, and nonprofits in Camas and Washougal. Triangle Resources, which does debris recycling, offered to work with the Lions, after being connected through a member.

“We’re a community-based company, and for us to be able to have an opportunity to give back, it’s a good thing,” said Chris Peet, of Triangle Resources. “In order to be a good neighbor, a good community member, it’s good to be on the plus side.”

Over the course of the day, the Lions crew removed hundreds of pounds of debris; entirely removing a laurel hedge which was causing carpenter ant problems throughout the warehouse.

Stepanie O’Dell, membership chair of Camas Lions Club, trims hedges. PHOTO BY JACOB GRANNEMAN

“We’re always looking for ways to be in the community, what kind of community service things we can do,” said Lion Su Scott, who participated in the cleanup. “Luckily, it’s a really nice day for working. A lot of us have our own equipment, and with sheer numbers you can get a lot of work done. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.”

In addition to the hedge, the club also weed-whacked, trimmed bushes, cleaned garden beds, removed all debris, and pressure washed the grounds and walkways.

“It’s what our club does,” said Lion Chris Dierickx. “I haven’t been as active as I used to be because I’ve been busy with kids going off to college and stuff. When I got the email, I said, ‘I’m free!’ so, I’m doing my part as a member of the club.”