Wake Up and Smell the Lion’s Roar

Illinois club has "bean" doing all right with their custom coffee fundraiser

The rich aroma of coffee wafting through the open air of a farmer’s market or other community event is especially fragrant for the members of the Grayslake Lions Club.

Two years ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the 55-member club, like many others, was challenged to find a fundraiser to replace their pancake breakfast and steer roast that had been canceled due to pandemic restrictions.

Lions clubs members sell coffee
Members of the Grayslake Lions Club in Illinois began selling coffee when the pandemic prevented them from their usual fundraisers.

That’s when Lion Jason Creek, vice president of the club, came up with a suggestion that has brought in more than US$7,000 in about two years.

Creek’s idea was to partner with Java Jive Coffee Roasters in Waupaca, Wis. to sell bags of premium air roasted coffee in elegant-looking black bags imprinted with the club’s name.

Before it could start, however, Lion Rob Depke says the club needed to get approval from Lions International to put their club’s name on the bags that sell for US$15 for a 12-ounce bag.

“Java Jive worked with us on a design that branded us as the Grayslake Lions Club,” Depke says. “People like the coffee and they like that our club’s name is on the bag.”

Coffee gift basket by Lions Club members
Grayslake Lions sell five different kinds of coffee plus decaf at farmer’s markets, art fairs, and other community events.

The club sells different strengths of coffee dubbed with such Lion-related names as Lions Pride, Lions Roar, Lion’s Den, Lion’s Paw and Lion’s Mane. They also sell two types of decaffeinated coffee.

The club’s next steps were to order inventory and to train club members on the coffee’s finer selling points. Even Lions who aren’t coffee aficionados were soon able to talk about the differences between the single bean and multi-bean coffees and what countries they come from

Grayslake Lions Club sells coffee
Even Lions who aren’t coffee aficionados were soon able to discuss the nuances of the flavors and countries of origin.

such as Guatemala or Brazil. “They picked up the lingo pretty quick,” Creek says.

The club began selling the coffee at farmer’s markets, art fairs and other community events where they also offered free samples.

“We’re out there in the rain and snow, no matter what the weather is,” says Creek. “We tell people, ‘Hey. If you buy coffee from us, you are putting money back into the community.’”

Creek says it is important to carefully track inventory and sales. “I need to report about this in good detail to the club,” he says. “It’s important to be transparent because they want to know if a fundraiser is worth the effort.”

Tracking sales also is important for re-ordering and having the most popular coffee on hand. Lion’s Roar, which Creek describes as a robust coffee with a lot of flavor, is the most popular, based on their sales.

The club has discovered several ways to further fuel interest in their coffee, which they purchase at the wholesale price. For instance, during the holiday season in 2021 they created bags packed with three single-pot sizes of coffee and tied with them with ribbons. Each single pot usually sells for US$5 each, but the gift bags were offered at the discounted price of US$12.

Looking forward, the club has plans to introduce new flavors later this year including Pumpkin Spice, English Toffee and Peppermint Cream. They also are starting to sell K-cups.

The coffee, which Creek stores at his home, also is available to purchase online from a link on the club’s website. Lions will deliver it to buyers’ homes. Being out in the community selling coffee and talking about the good work the Lions do has had another benefit for the club.

“We met people who were interested in the club and we ended up recruiting five new members,” Creek says. “Lionism hinges not just on being there for the community, but on being part of the community.”