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Fort Myers Beach Lions celebrate 65 years

November 22, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The desire for community service is what makes someone a Lion.

The Fort Myers Beach Lions Club is celebrating its 65th year and shared that celebration with the Everglades Lions Saturday night.

It's also the Everglades' 65th year, but with recovery still ongoing from Hurricane Irma, the beach's club decided to hold a joint celebration at The Pink Shell.

Article Photos

Marla and David McCagg, left, and Fran Peters, right, celebrated the club's 65th anniversary with their father, Pete McCagg, center, who is the longest-standing member of the club. He's been a member for 63 years.

Without the beach club, there would be no shrimp festival.

The Lions began a shrimp boil fundraiser 60 years ago to raise money for what was then the national organization's main focus, vision. It began to grow from there.

Darby Doezerbacher has been a member of the Lions for 30 years; she's now the chair of the shrimp boil. She would have been a Lion for longer, but the club only opened up its membership to women three decades ago.

"It's a total service organization," Doezerbacher said. "We do nothing for ourselves, all the money is returned to the community."

Her father was a Lion when she was growing up in New York.

While the Shrimp Festival, now a three-day, multi-event celebration might be the Lions' biggest weekend of the year, the club has accomplished many other things for its local community, including purchasing the lights for the Little League field at Bay Oaks and buying large-print books for the library, as well as volunteering annually at a free vision clinic in Immokalee.

The international organization, celebrating its centennial year, has grown beyond aide for visual impairment and now also dedicates its volunteer efforts to hunger, environment, diabetes and pediatric cancer, challenging its membership to find the needs in their communities related to these overall focus areas.

Fran Peters of Fort Myers Beach attended the celebration with her father, Pete McCagg, who is the longest-standing member of the beach Lions. McCagg joined the beach club 63 years ago and was made president after attending just two meetings when the former president stepped down, Peters said. It was McCagg's imitative that added the parade to the shrimp festival - the first one consisted only of a flatbed truck and a bunch of kids from the beach school who decorated their bikes.

Now, the festival raises $60,000 for the club's charitable endeavors. Peters has been a Lion for 22 years; now her daughter, Shelby, has also joined the club's ranks.

"We're three generations of Lions," Peters said.

Paula Schuttera joined the beach club just three years ago. She's been helping recruit new members to the group.

"Our Lions club has been going through a transformation in the last year and a half of it is because of our membership," she said. "The bulk of it is seasonal and senior. The community needs aren't seasonal."

When she joined, the club had gotten a little quiet. It used the annual shrimp festival to fundraise for scholarships and some statewide programs, but was not in the pulse of the community's needs.

Last year, by chance, the Lions held a membership meeting at the elementary school because their original venue was double booked. They invited Dorothy Lee and Trouper the blind raccoon of the Wildlife Education Project as a guest speaker, and opened up the meeting to the community to come and enjoy the program.

More than 140 people attended, and the Lions learned through that partnership that many of the families at the school are economically disadvantaged.

"In the last year, we've tried to make those efforts and see where are there gaps in the community for service," Schuttera said. "A lot of members were shocked to go to the beach school last year and learn there's families below the poverty line."

The Lions have helped start a Boy Scouts troop on the island, led by one of their new members; Liam Farrell, who's taken charge of organizing the Shrimp Run 5K before the festival, has also joined.

"We're still very effective, but we would love to have more members," Doezerbacher said.



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