Don’t be discouraged by the traffic jam when you go to pick up your takeout dinner at Lions Hall in Boalsburg on Oct. 15. The line of cars will snake down Academy Street to Main Street, but it moves slowly and surely, as each driver is greeted in turn and receives a labeled brown bag from the cordial, well-oiled machine that is the Harris Township Lions Club.
The Lions Club semiannual barbecue serves half chicken or smoked pork chop dinners complete with a large baked potato and choice of applesauce or pepper slaw as a fundraiser to support the Lions’ mission of humanitarian service within our region. The fundraising dinners have been going on for more than 30 years and support community-building activities that enhance the quality of life in central Pennsylvania.
For the folks in the know — that is, on the email or snail mail list — it’s a twice a year opportunity to do your own small good deed while giving the cook of the house a night off. You can pick up a tasty dinner or two for the bargain price of $9 (chicken) or $10 (pork) that is homemade and prepared with love, and enjoy it outdoors at a park near Boalsburg if the weather is nice.
Pete Schempf, co-chairman of the event and sender of the announcement, is the broadcast agent, putting the word out with the support of his wife, Carol, who assists in processing the orders and the payments. It is Carol’s strong hand that labels all the bags for pickup. Last spring, there were 638 dinners sold — that’s a lot of bags to label, but this former elementary school teacher is very good at printing.
The beauty of the barbecue dinner is that everyone brings their own particular expertise into making the event happen and happen smoothly. Lion Gary McClintic, co-chairman, heads up the cooking team and schedules the various prep teams. On the Friday prior, the chicken and chop orders are placed with the suppliers. The chicken and the Idaho potatoes come from Imler’s in Duncansville, and Bierly’s meat market in Spring Mills supplies the pork chops.
Some tasks can happen the week prior, like shopping and cleaning the barbecue pits. Lion Elsie Dixon is in charge of the team of four who make and freeze the applesauce ahead. The McIntosh apples are sourced from the Hills Plaza farm stand.
The Wednesday before the barbecue, the pepper slaw is made, and the Friday before the event the slaw and applesauce are portioned out by one team and the potatoes are washed by another team headed by Lion Johanna Chisnell. On Friday evening, volunteers wrap the potatoes for baking on Saturday.
Schempf provided a description of what happens on the big day.
“Saturday is D day: The fire is started around noon by the cooking crew and there is a crew that does the chicken and a crew that does the chops,” he said. “Lion Gary MacElwee is a critical member of the cooking team constantly monitoring the temperature of the meat. Once the chicks and chops are cooked they are put in hot boxes in the hall ready for bagging. Many dedicated Lions work the cooking side.”
The assembly line bagging operation is headed up by Lion Jerry Duck inside the hall prior to each pickup time slot, said Schempf.
“There are two lines of packers who load the individual dinners of chick or chop plus a potato into the Styrofoam containers and shove them down to the ends of their line,” Schempf said. “Then two dedicated baggers load each bag according to the order on the side and add the slaws and applesauce. We’ve found you need two dedicated baggers who never change out during the whole process as this is where most order mistakes are made. Once the bags are packed they are set aside for another crew to arrange alphabetically on the distribution tables so the runners who take them to the cars can easily find them. “
“Many hands make light work” might be the mantra of this energetic organization of 44 members that takes such good care of Boalsburg and its environs. Membership has grown in the Harris Township club thanks to the proximity of the “young” retirement village Liberty Hill, according to Schempf, who has been a Lion since 1997 and the one of the leaders of the pack when membership opened to include women about 10 years ago. There are eight other clubs in the central Pa. region — Bellefonte, Centre Hall, Ferguson Township, Howard, Milesburg, Millheim, Patton Township and State College.
The largest service club in the world, Lions International, will celebrate 100 years of service to community in 2017. The organization was founded by Chicago businessman Melvin Jones who sought to inspire businessmen “successful because of their drive, intelligence and ambition ... to put their talents to work improving their communities.”
Not long after the organization was founded, in 1925, Helen Keller challenged the fledgling group to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” A mission was launched and continues to be one of the driving forces behind the Lions Club.
The Lions Club is always open to new members and anyone older than 18 can join — and there are LEO clubs in high schools to accommodate younger wannabes.
“All you have to have is a willingness to serve,” said Schempf, “fill out a short application form and submit it along with a $30 entrance fee. The fee is waived for veterans. Semiannual dues in our club are currently $36.”
It’s not too late to support this fall’s Lions Club barbecue but you need to spring into action. The order form and check must be sent in and postmarked by Wednesday to make the ordering deadline. To obtain the order form via email, call Schempf at 466-6969 and leave your email address. You can fill out the form with your dinner preferences and also with your preferred pickup time between 4:30 and 6 p.m.
Anne Quinn Corr is the author of “Seasons of Central Pennsylvania,” of several iBook cookbooks (“Food, Glorious Food!” “What’s Cooking?!” and “Igloo: Recipes to Cure the Winter Blues”) that are available for free on iTunes. She regularly posts to the blog HowToEatAndDrink.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Humanitarian deeds supported by the Harris Township Lions
▪ Built and maintain the large planter in the parking area of Nittany View Park in Boalsburg.
▪ Do a 3-mile roadside cleanup organized by Lion Pete High twice a year along state Route 45 from the bypass east to the township line.
▪ Support Hometown Christmas in Boalsburg by providing Santa and Mrs. Claus along with coloring books for the kids at the breakfast. Help decorate the lamp posts as well as provide hot chocolate at the tree lighting. The Lions also own, maintain, set up and take down the town Nativity scene and Christmas sign on Zion Lutheran Church property.
▪ Sponsor the local Boy Scout and Cub Scout troop 380 and provide their meeting facility.
▪ Assist with paying for eye exams and glasses for those in need in Harris Township.
▪ Provide annual cash donations of $200 to $700 and more to the following local organizations: SCASD Lions scholarship, Clearwater Connections at Millbrook Marsh, Little League and Girls Softball teams, Camp Cadet, Youth Services Bureau, Boalsburg Fire Company, CVIM, Habitat for Humanity, Mid-State Literacy Council and Sight Loss Support Group.
▪ On Thursday, Lion Gert Aron will head the team building a handicap ramp for an ARC building during the Day of Caring and another Lions team will assist with organizing and filing books for the Mid-State Literacy Council. These activities are organized by Lion Chuck Allen.
▪ In addition to these local projects, the club donates $3800 annually to several state and national sight-related organizations and programs whose services are also available to our local citizens.