A lion with a heart of gold

For dedicated Lions Club member Bill Scott, gratification can be as simple as a child’s smile or as profound as helping to improve the way a person lives their life. The Philadelphia native has done all of this and more, devoting countless hours of his time to the community that he has become a part of for nearly half a century.

Lions Club: Lions Club member Bill Scott in his home office in Millville.Lions Club member Bill Scott in his home office in Millville.In the first half of his life, Scott experienced all that was out there, with a passion for playing basketball, years of labor in the telephone business and an unwelcome draft into a rifle company during the Korean War. After his return in 1953, Scott relocated to Sussex County with wife Eleanor, to call his summer vacation location his permanent home.

Now 77, Scott still carries with him a liveliness and heartwarming youth that is seemingly unsurpassed. His commitment to the Lord Baltimore Lions Club began 48 years ago, only 13 years after it came into existence, and his loyalty shows.

Binders upon binders of organized documents and financial records line the shelves of his office in his Millville home. Scott said he couldn’t be happier doing what he does for the club and couldn’t have met a finer group of people. The Lord Baltimore Club averages 50 to 60 members, one of the larger clubs in the state.

“We might not have all 50 or 60 at the meetings,” he said, which are held on the first and third Wednesday of each month. “They might work or be involved with a church or something comes up, but when you call them for help at a fundraiser, they’re always there.” Scott, however, has maintained perfect attendance since his membership began in 1958.

He returns this year as the Lord Baltimore Lions Club secretary, a position he said is all too familiar to him.

“I can’t remember how many years I’ve been secretary now,” he said with a laugh. In addition to this repeated role, his time with the Lions has earned him two years as president of the local club, and in 1974 and 1975, he was named district governor, overseeing all of the Lions Clubs in the state of Delaware.

“There have been six district governors who have been associated with or from the Lord Baltimore Club,” Scott explained. “I was the second one. Very few clubs in the state of Delaware have had six district governors. It was a demanding position, but it meant a lot to me and I was really honored.”

As members of the Lord Baltimore Club begin the new year, Scott finds himself involved one of their major fundraisers of the year: their annual fruit sale, which runs from November through March, with five sales periods, one each month. “Generally, we do very well,” he said. “Our profit on the fruit sales, over the five sales, on average, is $10,000, so that’s a good part of our charity budget that we work for.”

In summer, the club works in conjunction with the Milford Lions Club to raffle off an automobile

“Milford sponsors the whole thing,” Scott said. “They buy the car. They set up and print the tickets. Then they turn around to the local clubs in Delaware and Maryland and pay us a dollar for every ticket we sell. So we sell the tickets at $2. It’s very easy money. All we’re invested in is time.”

Once again, the local club will earn roughly $10,000 to $12,000 in sales. With the raffle being in the summer, it allows Scott and the Lions of Lord Baltimore to target seasonal residents and visitors.

“A lot of the vacationers come back year after year and say they didn’t win,” he said, “so they’ll buy another ticket. We’re not really pushing our local people constantly. The summer crowd helps out a lot.”

The club’s annual fried chicken dinner at the Millville Fire Company is also another successful money earner. “The fire company works very well with us,” Scott said, “letting us use their facility, and they help us out with labor, also. If it wasn’t for some of the fire company members, we’d have a heck of a time. They’re very helpful.”

These three fundraisers, said Scott, earn the club the most money throughout the year, but the earnings are far from unnoticed.

“We have a rule at the club,” he said, “Any money that the Lions Club raises in the community, I don’t care how you earn it — someone hands you a dollar or you go out and sell 10,000 [raffle] tickets — it goes directly back into the community. There’s no money raised that we can use for our operating expenses. The money we need to operate with comes from dues paid by the individual members. Officers’ expenses, money for paper and printers — that comes from ourselves. If we raise $25,000 in one year from the community, it has to go back into the community somehow, or the district, or Lions International.”

Much of the Lions Club earnings and funding goes toward sight programs, which are incorporated with Lions International – not necessarily on financial terms but for other support — to help improve the vision of community members, young and old.

“We have our own sight programs within the club that we work very closely with the schools,” said Scott. “We go to the schools with a sight-evaluation machine and we actually set up eye examinations with the students at the schools. Dr. Jeff Hilovsky from Sussex Eye, over at Selbyville, works with us and evaluates the pictures we take of the children’s eyes. He volunteers his time and gives us the professional opinion to determine which students suffer from which problems.”

Parents, who initially provide consent for the free eye examination, are notified of their child’s results.

“If they have problem buying glasses, we come in and pay for them. We’ll cover their exams and pay for the glasses that they need to get better. The best part of the whole site program is when a teacher comes back to you and says, ‘I wondered why Suzie couldn’t do this or do that, but she couldn’t see. Now her grades are improving and she’s doing better.’ When the grades go up, it makes you feel pretty good to think that you helped somebody.”

On top of the sight program, the Lions Club lends out hospital equipment for those in need, free of charge.

“In this area, we have so many retired people,” noted Scott. “We have hospital beds, canes, crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs. John and Charlotte Driscoll head the hospital equipment, and they do a terrific job of keeping track of everything.”

In addition, the club has a “ramp committee,” headed by Pat Murray, which works in conjunction with the Delaware Interfaith Mission and the Telephone Pioneers, a retired group of telephone workers. The committee is responsible for assembling ramps for handicapped people in the community.

“Pat’s been building ramps for 10 to 15 years now,” said Scott. “He’s made over 100 ramps. It’s a great feeling to know you’re helping someone, but at the same time, we see what finances are involved. We don’t want to go out in the community and take business away from a contractor. We’ve got six guys who are pretty handy with tools and don’t mind going out there and doing it.

“There’s not a better feeling in the world than when you build a ramp for somebody and see the smile on their face,” he continued. “That could be the first time they’ve been outside their house in a month or two. It makes me really happy to be able to do something like that.”

Scott works closely with the Lions Club’s scholarship program, which awards $5,000 each year to Indian River High School seniors. “We have given $1,000 to five different students every year, as long as they keep their grades up,” he said. The scholarships are awarded to IR students who came from Lord Baltimore Elementary School, assuring that the money raised by the Lions is going back into the community.

“When someone asks me why I joined the Lions,” said Scott, “I tell them I did it for one main thing: knowing what needed to be done in the community, I could never do individually, but I could do with a group. When we got together, we could do it. Separately, it was impossible.”

The Delaware Lions Foundation, established in 1973 by past district governors, the late Ralph Helm of the Lord Baltimore Lions Club and James A. McCarty of the Millsboro Lions Club, plays a significant role in the programs that Scott and the Lions undertake.

The foundation accepts money from clubs within the state to offer a service, similar to a credit union, that helps fund projects that expenses may not cover. After clubs propose a planned project, the foundation will survey it and may provide a grant that covers a portion or all of the expenses required.

“It’s something we can back up into,” said Scott. “We contribute every year in our budget. As long as your program is true and you can prove that there is a need here, there’s no problem. It’s a great backup for the clubs in the state.”

Scott said the Lions Club is always looking for new members. “Anybody who wants to pitch in and help,” he noted, “is always appreciated. Again, you don’t need to make it to all the meetings, but just having the extra hands there during our projects is always appreciated.”

A new family membership program began at the start of the month, promoting membership to husbands and wives.

“It makes it easier for both to join,” said Scott. “There’s a reduction in price in installation and a reduction in price for the wife’s dues.” The Lord Baltimore Club currently has three spouse members with several more prospects.

Scott said his wife, Eleanor, though not a Lions member, is the best help he could ask for. “She helps me around here with the computer and a lot of the paperwork. I’d be lost without her.”

When he can manage time away from the Lions Club, Bill Scott finds himself puttering in his workshop at his home. “This house is 50 years old,” he said. “There’s always plenty here to work on.”

An impressive collection of miniature cars lines a shelf in his office, as well. Over the years, he also tries to add to his elaborate train set, which dates back to his very first Christmas. Years in the phone company and a broad knowledge of electrical wiring have helped him expand his one “toy” he has managed to hold onto.

“I love the trains,” Scott said with a smile. “Eleanor’s nice enough to let me set it up each Christmas.” Scott said that he doesn’t consider any of these to be too much of a hobby, though. “The Lions Club is my hobby. I enjoy waking up every day to do this. It’s my life.”