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Over Coffee Feb. 28, 2008
By Penny Fletcher
Feb 28, 2008 - 5:35:41 PM

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Sitting at the kitchen table with Jane Ruth and Ellen McGovern overlooking a well-manicured yard and backyard pool it was hard to believe the men and women of whom we spoke were so far away.

Their words came to us from the papers that lay scattered around the table; their names all preceded by a military title of some type. Along with the list of names was a photograph of a woman in uniform holding a box which she had received on behalf of her unit during the Christmas holidays.

These were men and women in our armed forces, stationed around the world, mostly now though, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jane called me to talk about her current charitable cause because during the last 15 years we’ve worked together several times. Or, more accurately stated: she has done charitable work and I’ve written about it on several occasions. Like her father, the community’s well-known volunteer fire chief, the late Chief Ed Powers, Jane never wants to call attention to herself – only to the causes she represents.

This time it’s her work with the Sun City Center Lions Club gathering toiletries and other items for overseas military personnel. Although this is now an effort she hopes people will keep on their minds year-round, last December she and Ellen, along with a handful of helpers, got enough Lions to donate money for fruit cakes that they filled seven cartons, with other small items including candy, toothpaste, gum and Chapstick® piled around them.

Now, with the holidays long past, the decorations down and spring brightening the landscape, notes from around the world are still coming in with soldiers saying the boxes made them feel appreciated, and brought good thoughts of home.

One woman, Lt. Col. Karen Wright, sent a photograph of herself holding the box she received on behalf of her unit, and called to the fact that she is also a Lion.

Peter Leone said he recently returned from Afghanastan and is now stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, while Gregory Quick is at an unidentified combat support hospital. Two others on the Lion’s list were brothers: Colby and Bruce Umbrell.

Jane said she was greatly saddened with the news that shortly after receiving his box, Lt. Colby Umbrell was killed in Iraq.

Penny Fletcher Photo Jane Ruth and Ellen McGovern, from left, show off some of the thank-you notes and letters they’ve received from Iraq for boxes of fruitcakes and other goodies sent by the Sun City Center Lions Club to overseas troops during the holidays.
Jane and Ellen said they feel like they know the service people when they receive their names. But helping servicemen is not the Lion’s regular charity. In 202 countries around the world, the 1.3 members of Lions Clubs International are known mostly for conducting vision and health screenings, supporting eye hospitals, collecting glasses for the needy, building parks, awarding scholarships and providing help in times of disaster.

Lions are permitted to come up with their own projects as well, however, and helping service personnel was just such a self-initiated project.

When asked if they were planning to keep the effort up year-round, Jane and Ellen said they were always ready to help the troops and would like to know if anyone has names of overseas military personnel to add to their list.

To do this, or to take part in any Lion’s project, people from anywhere in South County – or any visiting Lion  – may attend a meeting. Persons who do not live in Sun City Center may also join the club.  

Meetings are held the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, with coffee and doughnuts at 8:30 a.m. followed by a business meeting at 9.

In March, the club will meet in the Florida Room of the Sun City Center complex on N. Pebble Beach Boulevard, but this is only a temporary arrangement while the club seeks a new meeting place to host its monthly meetings.

Surely someone out there has a meeting place for this worthy group.
* Perhaps you have a story you’d like to share. Or maybe you’d rather tell the community something about your favorite charity or cause; or sound off about something you think needs change. That’s what “Over Coffee” is about. It really doesn’t matter where- or if- we actually drink any coffee (although I probably will). It’s what you have to say that’s important.

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