Gunnison Valley service organizations look to rebound starting this summer

GUNNISON—Like other groups and individuals, service organizations in the Gunnison Valley are looking to rebound from an off year.

For the Lions Club and Jaycees, that means sights are set on the 4th of July carnival celebration. Each organization hopes the event, which is annually the most significant source of fundraising for both clubs, can rejuvenate their programs in 2021.

Back in 2013, members of the Gunnison Lions Club (from L-R) Blake Donaldson, Roger Jensen, Jay Childs, Brent Jensen, Nolan Squire and Dennis Christensen stand on an 80-foot bridge spanning the Sanpitch River that they helped build. Roger Jensen headed up Lions club fund raising and volunteer work on the project.

“Last year was a total change in what we were used to,” said Mark Henline, president of the Lions Club. “The COVID restrictions determined what we could, and could not do. It wasn’t unwillingness [of members], it was just that we couldn’t do it.”

The Gunnison Lions, founded in 1917, is one club within an international social welfare organization. The group raises money to give back to local projects and scholarships, and organizes community service in the Valley. A significant portion of that money comes from selling food and other initiatives at the carnival each year.

Similarly for the Jaycees, the 4th of July is typically the “big event, the money-maker,” according to Kristyn Bore, a member of 10 years. And that money funnels back into city projects, scholarships for local high school graduates and other initiatives.

“If there’s something going on in the community that’s going to improve the community and make the community better, we like to get involved with that,” she said of the Jaycees.

The Jaycees just held its annual Easter egg hunt on Saturday, April 3, which Bore said was one of the only normal things it has gotten to do in the past year.

Henline said all the Lions Club was able to accomplish while following COVID-19 guidelines was a trash pickup in the fall on the highway between Gunnison and Fayette. It also helped coordinate the donation of the Christmas tree in the Legacy Plaza, as usual. John and Laurie Jensen donated the tree.

In the next few months, though, Henline anticipates the club will get busy again with the 4th of July lunch and other events.

On April 28, there will be another trash clean-up day. There is a suicide-prevention event tentatively planned for Monday, May 17 and a breakfast is planned for Memorial Day on Monday, May 31.

In other Lions-related news, Debbie Greener will take over Henline’s role as president on July 4.

“She’s a go-getter,” Henline said. “She will do a great job. She’s there for everything.”

As activity resumes, the groups will rely on volunteerism and say they will take any help offered by community members.

Henline said membership was still strong, despite having lost some “good members” in recent years who have passed away.

“Other than this year, [membership] has been as strong all along,” Henline said of the Lions. “”It’s just a great community. Good people, maybe it’s tradition passed down from their parents and grandparents. I don’t know, there’s just a service attitude here.”

“Gunnison has a real strong history of community service oriented people,” Bore also said.

But Bore specifically noted that the Jaycees “could use a lot of new members” after experiencing a decline over recent years.

“We live in a time where people are busy, busier than they were 20 and 50 years ago,” Bore said on why participation has dipped. “For people who want to get involved in the community, they don’t even necessarily need to be from Gunnison. There’s a lot of different ways to help without it feeling like it’s taking over your schedule or your life.”