Spend some time in North Augusta, and the work of the local Lions Club is easy to spot. Lions Memorial Field, now a city-owned facility, was built and initially run by the club. Lions sell the tickets to the football games at the Jackets Nest, and Lions Club brooms are sold at a handful of local stores. Each December, a different gift from the Lions Club makes its way down Georgia Avenue: the annual Christmas parade.
This year, the grand marshals for the parade will be seven of the Lions Club legacy members: Les Gotschall, Jack Kendall, Verlon McDowell, Jim and Faye Purcell, Bill Roose and Cobie Williams. Adding up their total years of service, the seven have served as Lions for 257 years.
"To me, the motto 'We serve' was what I felt I needed in my life, something to give back to the community. That's the reason I became a Lion," McDowell said. He's been in the club for 56 years and has held every elected office except for treasurer.
The club is the oldest civic organization in North Augusta, dating back to beginnings in 1936. McDowell said the club took over the parade around 1965 after the North Augusta Jaycees stopped running it.
"The Lions Club really takes pride in being able to do this," said Faye Purcell. "This is our gift to the community."
She said at one time, when membership had fallen, the then-president of the club suggested giving the parade up.
Faye said the response was like a rebellion against giving it up.
"We have pulled off a Christmas parade year after year when we didn't have that many members, but it's that source of pride for us that stands for the Lions Club. This is one gift we can give to the community that everybody appreciates."
Purcell was the first woman allowed to join the club and has been a member for since 2001. She's served as president, vice president and administrator.
Her husband, Jim, has been a member for 39 years and said he was initially recruited on a trip to Tanzania in 1980.
"The Lions Club meant a lot to me because it allowed me to meet some distinguished people. At that time John L. Hixon was still in the Lions Club and Paul Knox was still in there, you know, and it was just a thing of distinction for me, I thought," Jim said.
Jim recruited Faye, as well as Williams and Roose.
Williams has been a member since 1985 and has served as Tail-twister.
"I joined to serve mankind and serve the Christmas parade and do what I could," Williams said.
Roose has been a Lion for 23 years and has served as president, vice president and treasurer and said his main focus is their mission of sight preservation.
Gotschall has been a member since 1962 and has served as president and zone chairman. Kendall has been a Lion for 30 years and has served as a Lion-tamer and Tail-twister.
Internationally, the Lions Club's mission is to help preserve sight. The club collects used eyeglasses to be donated to those in need in other countries.
This year's parade is set for 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8, along Georgia Avenue.