Lions take on food insecurity

Chad Frey
In May, the Newton Lions Club hosted a food drive during a Saturday cruse night. The club is planning to change the annual pancake feed in November to a by-donation event, turning no one away when they serve the election day meal.

Lions Club did not really set on food insecurity as a service project for 2020, it just kind of came to them.

“We want to open up to the community in a way that is unique given the unique times we are in and given the fact we are in our centennial year,” said Greg Nickel, club president.

That started with a project in May, creating a food drive during one of the Newton COVID-19 Cruising Nights. The club collected a pickup full of food and $300 in cash donations. The club kicked in $1,000 cash, and a club member got a donation of $800 in gift cards to a local grocery.

“There was a huge benefit,” Nickel said.

All of it was donated to the Salvation Army.

“As you know, needy families and individuals in our community go without proper food, shelter and essential medical care everyday,” wrote Wendy Basye, coordinator of Harvey County Salvation Army, in a thank-you letter to the club. “... The generous support of people like you during these crisis times will allow us to help many of these families and individuals.”

The club, however, is not done there.

This week during a club meeting, the annual Pancake Feed was announced — and this year it will be dramatically different than in the past.

The largest fundraiser for the club each year, the election-day event will not be reserved to those who purchase tickets. Admission will be by donation — whether a diner chooses to toss a few bills in the till or not, they will be fed.

“It is a huge community event,” Nickel said. “We have been talking about how the pandemic will look this year, and how the world will look this year.”

The pancake feed is the club’s largest fundraiser of the year — with profits of $10,000 annually.

The club plans to offer, in addition to the pancakes, breakfast burritos — and is preparing for a drive-up format if it is needed. Whether or not the club will welcome diners into the Newton Recreation Commission gymnasium for a meal as is tradition will be decided at a later date.