Since its Great Depression start, York County’s Susquehanna Lions Club has scored leadership winning streak
Lions Tail, Susquehanna Lions Club’s June 2010 newsletter, lists several new club members at a time that service organizations in York County and elsewhere are dropping in attendance. The Mount Wolf-Manchester-area club has produced a succession of presidents each year since its founding, an ingredient in its success. The club’s Depression-era founding was not unusual, as many of York County’s social and cultural institutions formed to add light during those dark days. Also of interest: An evening well spent in Hanover, Pa. and Obscure F.O.E. building to become colorful beacon of York, Pa.’s renaissance and York County civic, service groups fighting for lives
During the height of the Great Depression in 1933, Dr. James F. Wood wielded the gavel as Susquehanna Lions Club’s first president.
The next year, David Kuhe followed him as leader.
Then came Richard K. Seitz as president of the organization, which today meets in Mount Wolf and Manchester and draws many members from the Northeastern School District.
On June 24 – 87 years after Dr. Wood’s rein began – Mike Starner will be elected to the presidency, succeeding Richard Bolding.
The club’s tradition of electing a different president every year is intact… .
The roster of past presidents at Susquehanna Lions Club appears in its June newsletter. Richard Bolding is the current president.
“We are really proud of never repeating a president,” former Susquehanna president and Lions District Governor George Reisinger said last week.
The implication of this annual, orderly leadership change is clear.
Prospective leaders of many service organizations, packed with aging members, know that if they take leadership positions, they could hold them for life. So, they shrink from such duty.
George Reisinger ticked off several other ingredients to the Susquehanna Club’s success that might work elsewhere:
– Be open to new ideas. The club introduced basket bingo, after some initial reluctance, and it turned out to outpace other fundraising projects. When the Manchester Jaycees disbanded, the Susquehanna Club assumed the Halloween parade in Manchester and Christmas Tree sales. But four former Jaycees who were involved with those projects joined the Lions and loaned their expertise. The Susquehanna Club gained two worthy projects and new, capable members.
– Discard projects that have outlived their usefulness and consume valuable volunteer time. In other words, don’t do things just because they’ve always been done. A snippet from Susquehanna’s June newsletter “Lions Tale” illustrates this: “Progress always involves risk. You can’t steal second base and leave your foot on first base.”
– Clearly, leadership from the top is essential. For example, when a Lions Club in another region disbanded, President Bolding called each former member to invite to Susquehanna. And the club has three active vice presidents who share the workload with the president as part of their apprenticeship for the top spot.
Gaining valued new members must be an emphasis, Reisinger said, and there’s a strategy for their retention.
New members at Susquehanna, often younger members in their 30s and 40s, are not immediately placed into leadership positions, a common practice in many volunteer-starved organizations.
New members might have to wait 10 or 12 years for leadership positions, and by then their young families – with all those intense time commitments – are grown.
Reisinger waited more than a decade for his presidency in 1999.
Put too much on new members at one time, he said, and they quit.
“You got to give them a chance,” he said.