Pratt Lions Club celebrates 100 years, begins 'Bags to Benches' recycling project

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Pratt Lions Club members (from left) Harold Stultz, Andy Lee and Denis Rasmussen, compile their plastic bag collections for weighing to see how many they will need to reach their goal of 500 lbs. The Pratt Lions Club is starting a new service project of gathinging used plastic bags to keep them out of the landfill and to turn in for use in making memorial benches made from the recycled bags.

Pratt Lions Club members are quietly celebrating a club milestone with the start of a new recycling project. For 100 years, Pratt Lions have served their community with vision care needs, now they are adding a program to turn plastic bags into benches that they will place around the community.

"I recently checked our charter, and sure enough, the Pratt Lions Club was organized in July 1921, making this our 100th year, and also one of the oldest, if not the oldest Lions Club in the state of Kansas," said current Pratt Lions Club President Andy Lee."

The Pratt Lions Club meets every Wednesday at noon, usually at Club D'Est Restaurant in Pratt, where they conduct business that often includes approval of vision request applications, barrel train plans, membership activities and eye-glass collection numbers.

"Our group is small, but I like being part of the local Lions Club because together we can do so much more to serve our community than we could on our own. Plus I just love the camaraderie and friendships that we build among members," Lee said.

Lee joined the Lions Club about 10 years ago, along with his wife, Vanessa Lee. He is new to the position of President, but has served in many other capacities with the Lions through the years.

Serving as recent past Pratt Lions Club president is Denis Rasmussen, who has been a club member since 1975, almost 45 years.

"When I was accepted into Pratt Lions Club membership, we had two clubs," Rasmussen said. "We had an evening club and a downtown noon Pratt Lions Club. In just the noon club which I joined we had over 80 members at the time."

Rasmussen recently received a membership award from the International Lions Club, honoring his many years of dedication to community service.

Rasmussen, who was a partner at Ayers-Calbeck Mortuary for many years before his retirement, said the club mission 'We Serve' had always been very important to him.

"Over the years, the Pratt Lions have been involved in many projects including collecting glasses (which we still do), building porch ramps for handicapped people, laying concrete slabs at the Pratt County Veteran's Memorial Lake where the gazebos sit, and planting trees in parks," he said. "Our numbers have dwindled over the years, but we always still look for projects to serve our community."

New Pratt club members Ike and Edith Agwu, who were recently inducted in a special ceremony held at Bixler's Art Barn south of Pratt, said they joined because of the service focus of the Pratt Lions Club and the camaraderie they have experienced there.

New Pratt Lions Club members Edith and Ike Agwu (middle) take part in a recent official welcoming ceremony with Pratt Lions representatives Harold Stultz, membership chair (left) and Andy Lee, club president (Andy Lee) and Denis Rasmussen, past club president (seated). A full contingent of 12 club supporters were present for the meeting, held at Dick and Nancy Bixler's Art Barn in August.

"We just love that the Pratt Lions Club is part of a much larger international service organization that we can plug into, plus we just love getting together with our local Lions whenever we can," Edith Agwu said. "Together what we give can go so much farther and wider than what we can do alone. There is nothing more important than a mission to serve others."

The Agwus, along with other Pratt Lions Club members have wholeheartedly embraced a new Lions Club project of collected used plastic bags and similar material to be recylced into benches that the club will place around Pratt.

"We were looking for some way to memorialize some members who have passed in the past two years, like Steve Hendricks who always walked his dog at the Pratt parks, and we came up with the idea of placing a bench in the park in his honor," Lee said. "Then we found out about this wider Lions Club project through which, for every 500 pounds of plastic bags we collect, we can have those recycled into a fiber-type bench."

The Pratt Lions Club members have started collecting plastics and weighed their first gathering last week.

"We found out that plastic bags don't weigh very much and ended up with just over two pounds," Lee said. "We are definitely going to need help from the community to collect enough for the benches we want to gain."

Items that can be recycled in this special project include ziplock baggies, grocery bags, bubble wrap, breadsacks, water case overwrap, cereal bags, produce bags and other similar plastic wrap material.

The Pratt Lions will be placing several bins for plastic collection around the community in the next few weeks and will announce when those are ready for use. In the meantime, Caleb Powell with Eco Pickup recycling service is helping to collect bags for the Pratt Lions project. He may be contacted at 620-352-0244 for recyclable and plastic bag pickup.

The Pratt Lions Club always welcomes new members and guests eat free at every Wednesday noon meeting at Club D'Est.

"I see firsthand how much good the Pratt Lions do every week," said Pamela Ford, Hope Center Director. "The help they give to those struggling with vision needs in our community is just phenomenal. They pay for eye appointments, eye care, eye glasses and collect and recycled tons of used glasses. The impact they have here in our hometown is just amazing."

To find out more about Pratt Lions Club membership or to donate collected plastic bags and related material, call Andy Lee at (218) 770-5378.

Worldwide, the Lions Club International organization has more than 1.3 million members belonging to 45,000 community-based Lions Clubs. All have the same motto, We serve.