By Leilani Roberts Ott
Robert Goolsby saw the work of Muskogee Noon Lions Club long before he became president of the group. His son is visually impaired.
Austin Goolsby graduated from Parkview School receiving a scholarship from the Noon Lions Club. The money for that scholarship and the ones given to Hilldale and Muskogee High School students came from the annual Pancake Day.
Club members will be flipping pancakes from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at Muskogee Civic Center arena for the 45th annual Pancake Day. Howard Potts, secretary/treasurer for the club, said this year they are calling it “Pride in Oklahoma Breakfast” because it will feature products made in Oklahoma like pancakes made with mix from Shawnee Mills spread with butter from Hiland Dairy and drizzled in Griffin’s Syrup served with a side of Blue and Gold Sausage. Love Bottling will provide the drinks and Sadler Paper Co. is donating paper goods. There are many other organizations and businesses donating supplies and funds. Cost is $5 for all you can eat.
There is no overhead because everything is donated, Goolsby said. Last year, the club made more than $8,000 serving about 800 people. The Muskogee Noon Lions Club is in its 96th year, Goolsby said. It’s one of the founding clubs, which are service clubs founded in 1917 with a motto of “We Serve.” It’s focus is on helping the community especially those who are blind or visually impaired.
Potts said the breakfast is held in conjunction with the Muskogee County Livestock Show held at Muskogee Fairgrounds. The breakfast was held at the 4-H Building on the fairgrounds last year but moved to the Civic Center this year to reach the downtown crowd.
“It has evolved into more of a community breakfast,” said Potts, who has been a member for 25 years. “INCOR brings their clients. They are one of our corporate sponsors. We’ve had very loyal partners through the years. It’s very rewarding.”
INCOR director Ed Breen is a life member of the Lions Club. He’s one of about 35 members. Potts said he got involved because as a pastor, he felt one-sided.
“I wanted to get to know the community leaders,” he said. “All the money we raise, we give away.”
It is a big job for the small group. Members bring their own grills. Pancake batter is mixed in 5-gallon buckets with a drill instead of a mixer. Big Sheetrock paddles are used to stir the batter.
“The guys mix it and then get it to the flippers,” Potts said.
Last year was Goolsby’s first experience to work at Pancake Day.
“It is incredibly hard work. They come in waves,” Goolsby said of the crowd. “When we have our next meeting, we have collected a ton of money, have a great presence in the community and we are serving others.”
The money provides 30 pairs of glasses, lenses and exams for those in need a year, Potts said. People go through the Department of Human Services, and based on need and income, are referred to Dr. Richard Creed, owner of Creed Eye Center.
“He donates his time for the exam,” Potts said. “He makes the glasses. Instead of him making $500, he gets $125 per pair. It’s huge.”
Creed, who has been a Noon Lions Club member since 1991, is glad he can make a difference in people’s lives through improving their vision. He recently helped a man in his 50s who needed glasses to start a new job and a battered woman staying in a shelter.
Parkview School receives $3,500 for their budget for children to do things like take a trip to NASA or for the wrestling team to travel. Parkview students will help serve at Pancake Day. Noon Lions Club helps 4-H Club by purchasing ribbons for the fair and other projects. Goolsby asked 4-H members to help with cleanup after Pancake Day.
Goolsby is happy to be president of a group that helped his son. Austin now lives on his in an apartment with his brother working as a dishwasher at Cowboy’s and attending Connors State College.
“My goal as a dad is to get him on his own and he’s on his way,” he said. “I was always impressed with Lions Club. They were doing their thing without a lot of fanfare.”