HJ/EDHerald Journal, Dec. 19, 2005

Bar's future raises concern about pulltab income

By Lynda Jensen

For some, the news that The Porthole Bar in Lester Prairie is being sold isn’t worrysome – but perhaps it should be.

What’s at stake is more than just a business, but thousands of dollars collected by the Lester Prairie Lions each year; distributed to dozens of local entities from the Little League to the Lester Prairie Ambassadors.

In fact, more than $200,000 has been given away to Lester Prairie community organizations, residents, and projects since 1986, when the club first began, after being absent from the community since the 1960s.

The majority of the Lions’ generosity is dependent on pulltab sales, Gambling Manager Joe Miller said. The Porthole Bar and Cafe is where the Lions sell them.

Pulltabs are the best form of raising money for the Lions, Miller said.

With pulltabs and a breakfast once or twice a year, the Lions have about $9,000 to $13,000 to donate each year, he said.

The generosity of the Lions has no favorite, since they give equally to just about everyone.

“We have no pet projects,” Miller said.

“They help everybody, with just about everything,” commented Troy Feltmann, who noted that the youth baseball/softball association receives $1,500 each year from the Lions. The money is used for equipment and league fees.

The Lions have an annual audit done that accounts for every dollar, Miller said. The state audits the club every three years, he added.

Besides raising donation money, pulltabs also support the local economy, Miller said.

Where the money goes

Of the money that the Lester Prairie Lions have given away so far, much of it has gone to repeat organizations. However, the club has given to one-time recipients many times, said Miller.

One-time recipients include transplant patients and Lester Prairie students attending a summer seminar or conference.

Organizations make requests to the Lions and then members vote at the monthly meeting, Miller said.

The Lions cannot accept anything in return for the money it gives, he said.

The organizations that the Lions regularly donate to include:

• the Viking Council, which redistributes the money to the Boy Scouts.

• the Lester Prairie Easter Egg Hunt.

• the Halloween party that the Lions used to organize received $10,500. The party offered an alternative to children instead of trick-or-treating, Miller said.

• more than $7,100 to the Lester Prairie holiday festival in December – the Lions provide the treat bags to children.

• the summer youth baseball program.

• Lester Prairie Schools has received more than $47,000 for playground equipment and clubs such as the National Honor Society, and the band department, Miller said. The money has seldom gone to sports activities, he said.

• the City of Lester Prairie has received more than $58,000, generally toward the park commission.

• the field and fence located southwest at the park was paid for by the Lions.

• the fence around baseball park was bought and put up by Lions.

• climbing play equipment and slides by the pool were paid for by Lions.

• the after prom party.

• more than $8,500 in scholarships to Lester Prairie High School students.

Wait and see

For now, the Lions are taking a wait and see approach. They have less than two weeks to sell pulltabs before it will end.

“We don’t have any other way to make that kind of money,” he said, noting that pancake breakfasts can only yield so much.

“At this point, we don’t have a plan yet,” Miller added.

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