Garrison Lions club learns new ways to help during pandemic

District governor from Pillager pays a May 11 visit to the Garrison Lions club and talks about innovative ways to meet and assist others.

Les Swift, governor of the Lions Club District 5M9, pays a visit to the Garrison Bay Lake Area Lions Club on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Submitted photo

Les Swift of Pillager may hold a title, but he prefers a more unassuming name.

“Don’t call me ‘Gov. Swift,’ call me ‘Lion Les,’” Swift said Tuesday, May 18, during a phone interview.

Swift recently visited the Garrison Bay Lake Area Lions, part of District 5M9. Part of the governor’s job is to visit as many clubs as possible in his district at least once during the one-year assignment.

“COVID has taught us all kinds of new lessons,” Swift said of using Zoom during his May 11 visit with the Garrison Bay Lake Area Lions.

The 62 Lions clubs in District 5M9 include those in Aitkin, Becker, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Ottertail, Todd, Wadena and Wilkin counties. Many clubs did not meet in person last year because of the coronavirus pandemic but still found a way to help.


“We did a lot of food pop-ups, you know, the food shelves. If people needed stuff delivered, Lions would step up and help deliver it — food or whatever, if they could get us a list,” Swift said. “Lions will do about anything as long as we can do it safely.”

During his Garrison Bay Lake Area Lions visit, Swift talked about a fundraising contest last year brought up by his granddaughter. She was letting her hair grow for a school project, then donated the locks when she shaved them off.

The project was primarily an at-home project, and Swift’s granddaughter would send the hair to a collection point at her school. She suggested the Lions could do the same as a fundraiser.

“The short hair and neatly trimmed beard you see before you tonight were not so neatly trimmed last summer. I had a ponytail! We raised $10,800 in that little project. You don’t have to have a meeting to grow hair. It just happens,” Swift told the Lions, according to a news release.

Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization with more than 1.4 million members in approximately 46,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas around the world, according to its officials.

“It is important to see how these clubs are doing, to see if they need any support from me or just have any questions on how to do things,” Swift said of his visits. “One of the challenges we had with COVID was we had to do Zoom meetings and try to teach people how to get on Zoom.”

There are about 30 members in the Garrison club, according to Swift. Their causes include: reduce the prevalence of diabetes; prevent avoidable blindness; ensure access to nutritious foods; protect and restore the environment; and help those affected by childhood cancer.

“We have some really great projects, you know?” Swift said during Tuesday’s phone interview. “We have to help everybody — or we try to help everybody — we can.”


Swift joined the Lions in 2012 when he retired as a Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad engineer.

“It's such a great feeling when you can do something for somebody else, just because you want to, not because you have to,” Swift said Tuesday.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .
I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write articles for the Wadena Pioneer Journal weekly newspaper owned by Forum Communications Co.
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