After 77 years of serving the area, the Norco Lions Club ended effective Sept. 30.
“I really think it’s a loss to our community,” said Ronald St. Pierre, who served as president for the last 10 years. “I really thought someone would pick up the ball and run with it, but instead I heard they were dropping it.”
There was no one left to pick up the ball, according to fellow members.
The club’s remaining five members were in their 70s and 80s, and even St. Pierre had recently relocated to an assisted living facility in Baton Rouge to be with his wife. He recalled the many projects their club did, including scanning children’s eyes as part of its Eye Foundation. It also provided a summer camp and a scholarship, which the club has money set aside to continue.
“I’m disappointed this happened and I hate to be the one at the helm when they did go out,” St. Pierre said. “But we hadn’t picked up any new Lions Club members in many years, and you can see this with many clubs today. I think TV is the part of our ruination.”
But he, like fellow members, says the club met the fate of all clubs with falling memberships with today’s younger people disinterested in joining civic organizations.
As the group’s secretary and treasurer, Richard Anton Dropik of Destrehan also blamed the group’s demise on a lack of participation.
“It’s been going downhill quite a while,” Dropik said. “You just about can’t get young folks to join. There is too much going on with iPhones and sports. They don’t have much interest in doing anything.”
Founded in 1940, the Norco Lions Club membership had peaked at 60 members at one time. By the time it ended, there were as few as five members who came to the meetings anymore. At the end, there weren’t enough of them to hold an election of officers.
With a dwindling membership, Dropik said it was pretty obvious what was happening to the club over the last few years.
“We held on as long as long as we could,” he said. “It got to the point we didn’t have anybody to do anything with fundraisers and without funds you can’t exist. It was a big letdown for everybody and the community.”
“You just about can’t get young folks to join. There is too much going on with iPhones and sports.”- Richard Anton Dropik
The Lions Club, an international organization, was founded in 1917 by Melvin Jones, a 38-year-old Chicago business leader who felt they should work together to better the community and the world. Jones’ emphasis was fundamental – what if people put their talents to work improving their communities. Some 100 years later, the Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization with more than 46,000 clubs.
The Norco club is no longer among them.
Dropnik said Lions Clubs have been actually growing in the last 15 to 20 years in other countries, but it appears U.S. clubs aren’t nearly as active as they used to be, and he’s seen the same decline in the local American Legion and VFW.
“It used to be a Sunday game – football – but now it’s everyday,” Dropnik said. “Basketball is throughout the week, too. That’s just taking over the country.”
Even so, the Norco Lions Club has dwindled so much that he doesn’t expect many people to notice it gone.
“It just tapered off until there was nobody there to do it,” he said. “It’s just changing times and changing interests.”