Half a decade ago, the Keene Lions Club started a program called the “Junior Lions.” Since then, more than 500 Keene High School juniors have joined at least four luncheon meetings each and participated in the Club’s activities.

Junior Lions are provided with an opportunity for character development and civic engagement, individually and collectively, as responsible members of the local, national and international community.   The teenagers who have been a part of this program gained benefits ranging from increased self-esteem to acquiring valuable job skills. 

The National Education Longitudinal Study found students involved in community service tend to perform better in school subjects such as reading, history, science and mathematics. It also enhanced students’ problem-solving skills, improved their ability to work within a team and enabled them to plan more effectively.

Chip Woodbury started as Junior Lions Advisor in 1990, and said, “Jim Huntley, a career guidance counselor at the high school, helped to coordinate this effort at the school.  When my high school teaching schedule changed as department chair, I was available to take the Junior Lions to the luncheon meetings.  

“I stayed on as Junior Lion advisor until I retired from the high school in 2003. At that time, Ernie Newcombe took over, until he turned it over to Jim Fennell.  I will always remember what a great group of students we have had involved in Junior Lions over the years!  It was always a real pleasure and privilege to work with them.”

“Ernie Newcomb asked me to join the Junior Lions committee,” Jim Fennell, Junior Lions Advisor for the past six years stated, “I quickly saw that we had motivated, thoughtful and community-minded young people involved in the program. These kids never fail to impress me with their spirit.

“I’m happy I can keep going what Ernie and Chip Woodbury started. The program is great for the kids because it gives them another way to be involved in the community and exposes them to the work our members are doing every day. If we inspire them to do more, then we have done our job.”

There is a pairing of Junior Lions with Lions Club members in a mentorship program that gives each a deeper opportunity to know each other, allowing members to help in developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference.  

This year’s Junior Lions, recommended by their teachers and guidance counselors, and their mentors, seen in parentheses, are as follows: Sunshine Ainsworth (Bud Record), Alyssa Bartlett (Jim Best), Natalie Bastile (Mary-Anne Wisell), Molly Harvey (Ron Farina), Sam Hussey (Scott Hussey), Manning Kirker (Crystal Knowles), Tom Pitts (Mike Sweeney), Kyle Trombley (Mike Blair) and Sophie Waters (Doug Nelson).

One of this year’s juniors is Kyle Trombley, who said, “I’ve been involved with the Keene Lions Club for six years, where I have loved and enjoyed every moment of it.  My first show being ‘Seussical the Musical,’ I immediately fell in love with what the Keene Lions did for our community.

“Since being part of mostly the theatrics of the club with their annual shows, I’ve served in the orchestra. No matter the experience or task, I have consistently felt welcomed by each and every person, individually with their inspiring personalities and talents.”

The Lions motto is “We Serve.” Here are a few ways in which the Junior Lions have served the Greater Keene Community:

• Volunteer 3-5 times at the Keene Community Kitchen.

• Joined Ron Farina during the holiday season to sing Christmas Carols at area nursing homes.

• Participated in the Earth Day roadside cleanup.

• Participated in the Lions Club Show. Most usually fill a support role (usher, chaperone, stage hand and orchestra).

Trombley went on to add, “When first taking part in the performances, I wasn’t sure what the ‘mission statement’ of the group might be. Rather, I thought it was this admirable ensemble that performs a new show each year. Shortly after being part of the group and getting to know everyone, I learned that the mission was to support those in our community who needed help with vision, hearing and so much more that even goes unseen.

“Being a participant in this organization has taught me more than I ever could foresee. Everyone involved within the Keene Lions Club equally contributes to the good of the community. The directors, producers, vocal coach, choreographers and musicians of the shows, volunteers who take part in vision screenings, members serving at the community kitchen – everyone plays a crucial role, providing hope for the lives around us.  

“Being a Lion is something much greater than just simply ‘putting on a show,’ it’s about giving back to a world we often times take for granted. I strongly encourage anyone to find a way to contribute to this extremely supportive and moving organization, no matter who you are, or what you believe your capabilities consist of.”

The Keene Lions Club is the second largest in New Hampshire and has an 80-year history of serving our Community. You can read more about the club at keenelions.com. Lions are the world's largest service club organization, boasting 46,000 clubs and 1.4+ million members.