THE FOUNDING AND MISSION OF THE CHESTER LIONS CLUB
By 1969 the “Dogwood Acres” section of Chester, New Jersey was home to many residents who were new to the area, attracted by the small-town and woodsy setting. Harry and Irene Brockman had relocated there from Scotch Plains where Harry had been a member of the Scotch Plains Lions Club, a service organization dedicated to helping others. His commitment to Lionism inspired him to talk to his neighbors about starting a club in his new hometown.
By autumn a total of twenty two people formed the core of the proposed new club and on November 24,1969 the International Association of Lions Clubs formally chartered the new “Lions Club of Chester.”
Harry and the members knew that the primary purpose of Lionism is service to the community, with particular emphasis on sight conservation and restoration. This meant developing activities and projects geared to the needs of the community, as well as to supporting programs of Lions International. Some of the earliest activities included helping those in need by providing funds for eyeglasses, medical procedures, home repairs, and financial crises.
Funding such projects was, and still is, a major task. By the early 1970s the Chester Lions Club’s major fund-raising activity became the Flea Market. The first location for the Flea Market was the parking area around the Chester Borough offices on Main Street. With the generous help of others, the Flea Market moved to what was then an open field on Route 206, straddling Chester Borough and Township. During its more than 15-year stay at that location the Flea Market became an institution, attended by thousands on any given Sunday.
With the success of the Flea Market, the Chester Lions were able to expand their charitable works. Funds were provided to the NJ Lions Eyemobile Foundation to enable free eye and hearing screenings. Equipment was purchased for the NJ Eye Research Foundation and for the Lions Eye Bank of New Jersey. Various institutions and camps for the blind received annual donations, as well as manpower to paint and repair facilities such as Camp Marcella for Blind Children.
Local citizens were helped with free eye, ear and blood screenings. Funds were provided to boy and girl scout troops, athletic programs, the food pantry, Chester Senior Housing and the library. Scholarships have been awarded to deserving seniors at Mendham and West Morris High Schools for many years.
Support for equipment and vehicles was also provided to organizations such as the fire and police departments and first aid squads in the area. Organizations such as Welkind Rehabilitation Center, Matheny School, The Seeing Eye, and Morristown Memorial Hospital were provided with major donations.
Financial support for victims of major catastrophes such earthquakes and hurricanes and for victims of 911 was sent direct and also through donations to Lions International. Donations have been given to organizations that support our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Chester Lions continue to support many of these worthy causes, as well as our local citizens in need. Our current major fund-raiser is the annual “Oktoberfest”. Today our membership has the same dedication as our founding members had in 1969. We are happy to invite our neighbors to join our organization, just as we did back then.