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Keeping busy

Apr. 13—Ironton Lions Club starts second century of service

This year marks the start of the second century for the Ironton Lions Club.

The group, which focuses on raising funds for many local organizations, was founded on Dec. 19, 1923.

It was the 18th club chartered in Ohio and the first president was Howard E. Unrue.

Now, as then, the club with 25 members follows its motto of "We serve."

"We try to stay busy in the community," said Lou Pyles, the Ironton Lions Club's treasurer.

The Ironton Lions Club annually distributes more than $10,000 in aid and charity to such groups as the City Mission, Open Door School, Pilot Dogs of Ohio, Ironton Little League, Ironton Youth Soccer, Briggs — Lawrence County Library Vision Impaired Center, Community Hospice, the annual Halloween, Christmas and Memorial Day parades, scholarships, eye tests and funding of eyeglasses for children among other projects.

Right now, the club is sending out scholarship applications to Rock Hill, Ironton, St. Joseph, Symmes Valley and Green high schools students. The winners will be chosen in May.

And if their own projects aren't enough, Ironton Lions Club partners will other local civic groups, such as when the Coal Grove Lions Club had a pancake breakfast and with the Ironton Rotary when there is a food drive for children.

"And we are always making plans for the Haunted Tunnel throughout the year," Pyles said.

The group's fundraiser is the annual Haunted Tunnel on Saturday nights in October.

"It is the only fundraiser we have. We don't have pancake breakfasts or anything like that," Pyles said. "We take the money and put it back in the community and we are happy with that."

The Ironton Lions Club has leased the tunnel across from the Ironton Hills center at the U.S. 52 and Ohio 93 intersection. It was used for road traffic as part of State Route 75 from 1924 to when the state closed it in 1960 after route for highway was moved and expanded into a four-lane road.

The story of the Haunted Tunnel is that sometime in the 1950s, a terrible accident befell the bus hauling a sports team and the bus crashed killing everyone on board and their spirits still haunt the tunnel.

"People will ask me if it is for real and I tell them to go to the library and research it," Pyles said. (No such accident ever took place in the tunnel, but what is a haunted attraction without a good backstory?) "It is a really good fundraiser and we have a lot of good volunteers to help us with it. We've done a lot of good with it."

Pyles said she thinks the reason the Ironton Lions Club has lasted to so long is because of the members' drive.

"We have always had a good club and we helped charter the Coal Grove Lions Club and the Portsmouth Lions Club," she said. "People come and go, but it has always been the drive of our older members to keep going and keep this club alive and do for the community."