The Mechanicsburg Lions Club has doubled its membership to 67 over the past ten years, thanks, in large part, to Lion Ted Cramer, who saw an opportunity when he moved to a 55-plus community.

Whether taking a walk in his neighborhood or attending social gatherings at the clubhouse, Cramer, who is membership chair of the club in Mechanicsburg, Pa., found ways to work the Lions and their activities that support the community into casual conversations with others.

“Once I started getting to know my new neighbors, most of whom were retired, I saw a good opportunity to spread the word about Lions,” Cramer says. “I’ve discovered that people who are recently retired are prime candidates because they are looking for ways to give back and also to stay busy.”

“Sharing interests through casual conversation got everything started,” he adds. “Then I would contact them later by email, a phone call, or face-to- face, which works best.”

Cramer didn’t rely on chance encounters alone to boost the club’s membership. The club also invites prospective Lions to a complementary annual dinner that features an interesting speaker and a presentation about the club and their activities.

Previous speakers have discussed the links Mechanicsburg (which is close to Gettysburg) has with the U.S. Civil War and Jim Thorpe, a famed athlete with local connections.

“You can advertise that and get the general population interested,” says Cramer, who promotes the event on social media, creates an email advertising campaign encouraging other Lions to send the notice to everyone they know, and puts together a flyer that is posted at local businesses.

A key point that Cramer emphasizes when talking to prospective Lions is that all of the funds raised by Lions go to charitable efforts, which many people find attractive.

“One hundred percent of the money Lions raise goes to charity, and our club decides where the money will go,” Cramer says.

With so many new Lions, Cramer says the club also ensures that there are a varied range of activities for members to take part in.

Some activities the club does includes partnering with a local charity to assemble disaster relief kits that are sent to areas throughout the country struck by a natural disaster, helping out at a food bank, and sorting clothing that is distributed to children in need.

Cramer notes that club members donated more than 1,300 service hours to local charities in between July and December 2022.

The club also raised about US$$10,000 to purchase visual screening equipment which it has used in more than 10,000 screenings at local schools and other organizations since 2017.

Newer club members played a pivotal role in raising the funds for the equipment and manning screenings.

“We wouldn’t have been able to buy that equipment or have the teams available to do the screenings without our new members,” Cramer says.

One of the Lions recruited by Cramer is Chris Stank who met Cramer while both were taking a walk in their neighborhood.

“We’d planned on finding some way to give back to the community and Lions fit the bill,” says Stank whose wife, Cathy, also joined.

Attending his initial meetings, Stank found he felt at ease with other Lions.

“They were all about business, but they were also very friendly,” he says.

Stank says another attraction of being a Lion is the camaraderie he’s found with other members.

“When we do a (visual) screening we’re laughing and having fun with the kids the whole time,” he says.

He also likes the flexibility Lions offers members who can devote as much time as they wish. They can even rise to become club president as Stank was previously.

“If people want to take a leadership role, it is there,” he says.

Stank and Cramer are both glad they had that chance encounter years ago. Cramer continues to

relish any chance he finds to let others know about what Lions do and how prospective members can be part of giving back.

“I’m kind of an upfront guy,” says Cramer. “Anyway, I don’t hesitate to tell people about Lions and invite them to join.”