By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch

Sept. 16, 1999

The Washington Lions Club has been involved in many civic projects over its 60 years, many involving eyesight. Its latest is also an attempt to bring light into darkness.

The goal is to install lights on the Washington Bridge across the Missouri River, says Vince Borgerding, whose chapter is celebrating its 60th anniversary Saturday at Lions Lake. The celebration will be a full day of family events capped by a free concert by Missouri's Ozark Mountain Daredevils.

The bridge connects Warren and Franklin counties and has no lighting of any kind.

"It's kind of a dream," Borgerding said. "We're working on bids right now, trying to make it feasible."

Washington's Lions Club was formed in September 1939. With 125 members, it boasts of being the largest chapter in the St. Louis district, he says.

"The Lions, of course, is an organization whose main objective is sight," Borgerding said. "We work with various schools around the area, buying eyeglasses and collecting old eyeglasses."

Working with area optometrists and other professionals, the club, here and nationally, works to provide eyeglasses to people who otherwise couldn't afford or wouldn't have access to them.

The Lions also work heavily in paying for corneal research.

Borgerding is the Washington chapter's "tail twister" - "I keep everyone in harmony, keep everything going," he says with a laugh. "We're a very active club. That's why we're having this celebration."

The party Saturday will be at Lions Lake, so-named because the local chapter built it.

"We built the lake years ago," Borgerding said. "There's a whole park system set around the lake. It's about a 10-acre lake."

The Washington chapter also helps with local downtown events, including annual art and wine festivals, and provides about 1,200 man-hours of help each August for the Town and Country Fair, the third-largest in the state, Borgerding says.

Saturday's 60th anniversary party at Lions Lake kicks off at 7 a.m. with a five-mile run/5K walk and a car cruise featuring pre-1980 automobiles at 11 a.m. To get there, take Highway 100 into Washington, then turn right on Clay Street, left on 5th Street and right again on Grand Avenue on the west side of town.

The afternoon will feature a tug of war, face painting, an egg drop and clowns.

Music will be provided by the Sonny Lefholz Jazz Generation at 1 p.m., Mike Rufkahr and Brothers at 4 p.m., and the Daredevils at 8 p.m.