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Crosslake-Ideal, Whitefish Area Lions Clubs to merge

The two Lions Clubs serving the Crosslake area will soon become one club, consolidating efforts and solving long-standing confusion between them, members said.

Chuck Cole, interim president of the Crosslake-Ideal Lions Club, said he believes the consolidation of the clubs, which will take the Crosslake-Ideal name, will benefit the community.

“We do a lot of things together, so why not put it under one umbrella?” Cole said.

The Crosslake-Ideal Lions Club has served the community for nearly 30 years, and the Whitefish Area Lions Club, established in 2000, has its origins in the former Crosslake-Ideal Lioness Auxiliary.

Lions Clubs International (LCI), which formed in 1917 with the mission of encouraging business leaders to use their talents to help improve their communities, began as a men-only organization. As the organization grew, women — particularly the spouses of Lions members — embraced the mission and began forming auxiliary groups.

LCI officially recognized the auxiliary programs as Lionesses in 1975. Twelve years later, the club’s International Board of Directors amended the constitution to admit both men and women to Lions Clubs, and in 1991, the Lioness program was disbanded.

The Crosslake-Ideal Lions, however, chose not to admit women into their club, so the Lionesses formed a separate group, the Whitefish Area Lions. Many of these women were the spouses of members of the men’s club.

“We were kind of the ones being discriminated against because we were women,” said Doreen Gallaway, a longtime Lion. “It took a number of years to kind of transcend that.”

Currently, the Whitefish Area Lions admit both women and men, after a decision by the board four or five years ago, Gallaway said.

“There were a number of the husbands who had either left the men’s club or were never members (who joined),” she said.

The Crosslake-Ideal group is a huge financial supporter of the community, donating money to local organizations, the city of Crosslake and area school districts, along with offering scholarships. The club raises money through its gambling license, distributing pull tabs at seven restaurants throughout the city.

Cole said the group has donated to the Crosslake fireworks display, the police and fire departments and area you and high school sports, among many other contributions.

“We provided the seed money for the archery team (at the Crosslake Community School), supported the trap shooting team in Pequot,” he said. “There’s the rescue boat on Whitefish and the shelter at the (Crosslake) Community Center.”

Crosslake-Ideal also hosts its popular 3-species fishing tournament at Moonlite Bay each year, sponsors the Cardboard Boat Races also held at Moonlite and does yearly roadside cleanup.

The Whitefish Area group, which does not have a gambling license, focuses even more on community events, hosting blood drives, flea markets, food shelf drives, an annual peach sale, a pie and basket auction, wine tastings and the Crosslake Easter egg hunt. All of the proceeds of these events go back into the community in various ways, including scholarships, and to support some of the international group’s efforts in preventing blindness.

Despite the group’s differing focuses, Gallaway said businesses and community members would often confuse the two.

“We would have certain events and we would go and be with a business owner, and they would say, ‘You guys were just in here, we just donated,’” she said. “We would do events and they (Crosslake-Ideal) would get the credit, and it was very frustrating. We kind of got to a point of, maybe two or three years ago, where we were undermining each other all the time.”

Still, the groups often hosted events together and supported one another’s efforts.

As a combined group, Cole said, members can be even more effective at serving the community.

“We’ve got a lot of things going on, too, and now we have help and they have help,” he said.

Talks of consolidating the clubs began in the fall of 2013, when Cole brought the idea to Crosslake-Ideal. After polling both club’s members, the vast majority agreed that consolidation was the best course of action. Each group lost a few members who disagreed with the merger.

“People have stereotypes that it should be a guy’s club,” Cole said. “I don’t think so.”

The clubs met with district leadership in February, and the merger will officially take place in July. The group will assume the Crosslake-Ideal name to avoid interruption in the gambling license.

Gallaway said she believes the inclusion of men and women in one club will assist in growing membership and will attract younger couples to serve their community.

“If it was up to me, every adult in Crosslake, everybody would be a Lion,” she said.

Chelsey Perkins can be reached at Follow her at and on Twitter @PEJ_Chelsey.

Chelsey Perkins
Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her Bachelor's degree in professional journalism from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Perkins has interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before joining the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.
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