Maple Grove Lions Club Celebrates 50th Anniversary.

30 men began with a desire to help. 50 years later their actions reverberate throughout the Maple Grove community.
Lion Tony Brunello

This month the Maple Grove Lions Club celebrates its 50th anniversary and we are all better for their long-time presence in the neighborhood.

To Serve…

The motto of the Lions Club International is unmistakable. They are an organization that provides a place to socialize, but, above all, they come together to serve, to raise money, to support their community and to make Maple Grove a better place to live, work, play and raise a family.

The Lion’s club is the largest service club in the world, with more than 1.3 million members in 46,672 clubs and 753 districts in 207 countries. A group of 30 men chartered the Maple Grove Lions Club in 1963, back when the city was more like a village, with a population of 2200.


Lions address each other formally—Lion Paul, Lion Wayne, Lion Teresa—but everything after that is meant for fun. Their monthly dinner meetings are full of handshakes and laughs and an enormous amount of kidding. It’s a social time, but even in the design of their interactions, they raise money. The designated tail twister (some insist the role is called the lion tamer) strolls during the dinner hour calling out fines that members propose upon one another, “Everyone not wearing his or her Lions vest to the meeting shall be fined 5 cents! All opposed?” Rowdy “nays” ensue but are overruled by the “yeas” and the tail twister extends his “spittoon on a stick” towards each member not donning a vest, to collect the fine. “Everyone wearing a purple shirt with their yellow Lions vest (the ultimate sartorial offense), is fined a quarter! Those in favor?” No one escapes the boisterous penalty of being in the room with other Lions.

Mitzi Reimer, wife of Maple Grove’s first mayor, Richard "Dick" Reimer (both long time Lions members) remembers when Dick was the tail twister back in the day when men wore ties and ladies wore white gloves to dinner. Lion Dick used to call out the proposed fines and sometimes, pulling out a large pair of scissors, would extend the fine to the cutting of the tie of the offending member. “He had, of course, supplied one of his own ties before the meeting,” says Mitzi, “but that always got a reaction from everyone.”

The group also takes surprise trips. Lion Donna Anderson explains, “We were told the type of clothes to wear to fit the occasion. We’d get on a bus, and the drivers had fun too, taking us to what we were sure was the “spot” only to find we were back on the highway.” These trips included dances, softball games, dinner shows. “Distance was never a problem as we always partied on the way,” Anderson adds. Lion Mitzi remembers a long ago Wisconsin’s destination that had them in the Fanny Hall Theatre watching Sally Rand performing her famous fan dance. You just never know with this group.

But, mostly Lions is a place where you can leave your differences at the door, a place where people of all religious backgrounds come together. “Even in our own club we have different political stances, but one shard purpose,” says Lions president Ken Kumpula. And that one shared purpose gives them both a local and global reach.

Service with a Smile

The club is well known for supporting eyesight and hearing needs. Their local focus also includes support of assistance animals, youth, education, those who find themselves in dire straits and the needs of the City’s Community Center, police and fire forces.

At the age of 85, long time Lion Tony Brunello has served in every office of the Lion’s club except Governor. He has experienced the myriad ways that Lions have supported the needs of others throughout the years. He favors events like the hearing telethon of ’79 and ’80—a three day event with big-name celebrities that raised 7 million dollar and established the Hearing Foundation at the University of Minnesota.

“Lions built the shelter and playground next to the Community Center as well as paying for the Community Center’s entrance marque,” says Tony. “They support donations to the eye bank and to diabetes.”

He stresses that Lions meet the humanitarian needs of the truly needy. He speaks of taking food to a family who lived in little hut. “The four kids were hanging on to a light bulb for warmth,” he remembers.

Two moments that Lion Brunello says have left an indelible mark: In the early 60’s he would visit school nurses and ask about the eyeglass needs of students. “I had this boy, an 8th grader, I brought him a new glasses, I reached into my pocket and pulled them out, I’ll never forget, tears started running down his face.” Then there was the time that the Club helped a 6-year-old get a cochlear implant; the youngster heard his parent’s voice for the first time.

Lions raise a lot of money via events like waffle breakfasts, golf tournaments, corn feeds, an antique show and the Maple Grove half-marathon to name a few, and they’ve been able to help even more people since the advent of gambling in Minnesota. “Gambling proceeds provide a lot of revenue for the Lions Club,” admits Brunello.

Secretary, Lion Jan Cariveau, one of the first women allowed into the Maple Grove Lions membership, says that the Maple Grove Club is the 7th highest grossing charitable organization involved in gambling in the State (which takes a cool 33 percent off the top of earnings, by the way) from only two locations in the city. Gambling contributes to the approximate half million dollars given away by Maple Grove Lions in 2012 alone.


A Legacy of Generosity

Lion Warren Anderson, the last surviving charter member of the Maple Grove Club, says, “The original Lions group was an enthusiastic, cohesive group wanting to serve and looking for ways to raise money for their various pursuits for community projects.” Today, male and female, spanning from ages 26 to 88, the Maple Grove Lions Club is 70 members strong and they will glide past their 50th year with great momentum.

Congratulations Lions. For your many accomplishments, for all the ways you know how to have fun, and for the remarkable ways you make Maple Grove simply…better.



Did you know?

The Mayor has declared March Maple Grove Lions month!


Initiatives and Organizations that Maple Grove Lions fund:

Holiday food baskets, Maple Grove Community Organization, Eye exams and glasses, hearing exams and hearing aids, C.R.O.S.S. Food Shelf, Maple Grove Ambassadors, student scholarships at Osseo and Maple Grove Senior High [Park Center Senior High too?- fact check], medical expenses for local citizens, Lions Pavilion, Lions playground, Maple Grove Community Center, City of Maple Grove, Leader Dog for the Blind, Minnesota Hearing Foundation, Foundation Fighting Blindness, North Ridge Care Center, Homeward Bound, Hearing Loss of America, Boy Scout Troupe, Relay for Life, Sight First Two, Lions Macular Degeneration, Lions International Diabetes, Community Emergency Assistance Program (CEAP),  C.R.O.S.S. Community Players, Special Olympics of MN, District 279 Foundation, All Purpose Canines, Lions Eye Bank, Eye Cancer Treatments, Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF)


While Lions avoid disclosing the exact amounts of monies they raise and how much they give, because they attest to the dollar amounts not being important, they will share the percentages of funds that go to certain areas of need:

Maple Grove Ambassadors 3%
Maple Grove Community Organization & Parks and Recreation 4%
District 279 Foundation 4%
Youth programs, Boy Scouts and YMCA  5%
High School Sports teams 5%
City police & fire equipment 7%
Cross & Cross Payers 11%
Holiday Food Baskets 12%
City tax & license fees 14%
Poverty & Illness Donations 15%
Scholarships 20%


A Little White Box
One Lions experience of being a Lion.

It is late August, a Saturday not long after midnight and Lion Jan Cariveau is sitting in her car parked in the garage, crying.

Two hours earlier she received an important call, one that allowed her to be a part of what has since become one of her favorite Lions Club endeavors. Lion Steve said the live tissue eye bank donation would be ready in 22 minutes. Heart pounding, Cariveau moved quickly between bathroom and bedroom until she was dressed and out the door, headed up Highway 81 to Wellstead in Rogers.

The highway patrol officer she met there opened his back door to pull out a little white box. “Have a good drive ma’am” was all he had time to say. “I put the box in my passenger seat,” remembers Cariveau. “The highway patrol car went north on 94 and I went south on 94 towards the eye bank.”

She realized she was speeding. “I didn’t want a ticket or to be in an accident with this little white box marked ‘live tissue – Lions eye bank’.”

She slowed down.

During daylight hours she had made a dry run to the eye bank with her husband Dean. She made her planned exit at Huron Blvd. and went left, right, left, right and there was the eye bank. She was buzzed into a glass room where two nurses were instantly there to take the box saying “thank you, thank you”. The box and the nurses disappeared.

She got back on the highway and headed home. It was misting rain outside and her eyes were misty inside the car too.

Twenty six miles later she pulled through the cul-de-sac and into her garage, turned off the engine and just sat.

They were good tears. “I realized that the tissue I just delivered was being tested already and may soon be on a plane to another state or country,” she said. 

“Or, just maybe in a couple of hours, someone who couldn’t see would now be able to see.”

“If I hadn’t said ‘yes’ years ago when asked to become a lion, I wouldn’t have been called that night, or ever been given the honor and privilege of delivering the little white box!”