The Lions Club is the largest nongovernmental organization in the world with 1.4 million members. The local district, 5M9, is large too, covering from northern Cass County to south of Parkers Prairie, west to the North Dakota border and east to McGregor.
For that reason alone it's a distinct honor that Cassandra Remington, of the Backus Lions Club, is serving as district governor this year.
There are other former governors in Backus and nearby clubs, including Bill Taylor and John Riordan, though they may have served while members in different districts. But the honor is still a rare one.
After 10 years, serving in almost every capacity in the district including president, first vice president, second vice president, director and others, Remington was nominated as governor while attending a meeting as the chair of Zone 3.
“The international director at the time came to me and asked if I had ever thought about becoming district governor,” Remington said. “I had never given it a thought.”
By the end of the meeting the former district governor, Rose Puckett of Bay Lake, also asked Remington if she would be interested. She was then nominated and elected in January by the voting body consisting of former district governors and delegates from all the district clubs. Her term lasts one year.
In the meantime, Remington has been busy with all the duties of district governor. She makes club visits, develops new clubs and encourages enrollment of new members while also installing officers and inducting new members.
“Wherever someone asks, 'Can you come?' I generally try to attend,” Remington said. “What I enjoy most is going to different clubs.”
Remington is currently working to start two new clubs in District 5M9. If she succeeds, she said it will probably be her proudest accomplishment. It's difficult to draw new volunteers and members, so starting whole clubs is a lot of work.
Remington was elected in January, but until July she served only as district governor-elect. She wasn't the official governor until taking her oath of office in July. For that, she had to take quite a trip.
“Every year the Lions have an international convention,” Remington said. “This year it was held in Milan, Italy. All district governor-elects go to Milan for their oath of office and ceremony to become district governors. That was the reason I went, to transfer from district governor-elect to district governor and enjoy the international convention and learn.”
Remington was abroad from July 3-10, and it was her first trip outside of North America. It's interesting to look back on the path that led Remington to Backus, the Lions and Italy.
She was raised in a suburb outside Chicago called Carpentersville. She has three brothers, two of whom still live in Illinois. One lives nearby, and it was his wife and Remington's parents who convinced her to move to Backus.
She had gotten a degree in nursing while in Illinois and worked there for nearly 30 years. Her parents had moved to the Backus area, as had her brother and his wife, who works at the Pine River-Backus School. Because she had nothing to keep her in Illinois, Remington relocated.
“My sister-in-law is a nurse as well,” Remington said. “We used to work at the same hospital. When she got up here she called me and said, 'You gotta get up here. They do nursing the way we were taught to do nursing.' We got to sit down and talk to patients. They don't do that anywhere now, but at the time being it was something I looked forward to. I did move up here. I had been coming up here every other month. I found a piece of property I liked, bought it and said I was leaving. They didn't believe me. I moved up here and got a job in Brainerd at the hospital doing basically the same thing I was doing in Illinois.”
When her father became ill, Remington helped her mother care for him. When he died, she looked for new career options. That led her to be a substitute nurse at PR-B, then a substitute paraprofessional and finally a substitute teacher. She said being a substitute school nurse and teacher allows her freedom to make her own schedule, especially now while serving as a Lions district governor.
“I can kind of squeeze substitute days in when I have the time,” Remington said. “I like that flexibility. My mother's still up here, so I talk to her every day. I check on her. Other than that I just enjoy life up here in the woods and on the lake.”
In addition to working for the school, Remington has long been involved in the community, even before becoming a Lion.
“I was the queen of the Backus Red Hat Ladies,” Remington said. “One of our members was a Lion. She had been talking about something they were going to be doing. I asked her to tell me about it. She asked if I would like to be a Lion. I had been thinking about it.”
Ten years ago that friend brought her to a meeting and she's been a member ever since.