WILSON -- Affable and generous, James V. Muscoreil personifies the Lions Clubs International Foundation volunteer, and his dedication to this nearly century-old organization has taken him throughout his community, across the country -- and around the world.
Following retirement from a 30-year career with Dunlop Tire Corp., Muscoreil joined the local Wilson Lions Club and has risen through the ranks at a rapid clip in the 16 years he’s been a proud member.
In fact, his association with the Lions has taken him as far as Bangkok, Thailand, where he was installed as one of the organization’s governors for 2008-09.
“It was an international convention and there were 680 governors and 15,000 Lions there,” he marveled. “It was quite an honor and a privilege.”
“Did you know there are Lions Clubs in 210 countries?” he added. “There are 1.4 million Lions.”
His dedication to the organization drew the support -- and eventual involvement, as well -- of his wife, Diane Muscoreil, who is the Wilson town clerk.
“Diane has been cabinet secretary under two governors -- myself and Ken Butkowski,” he said. “She’s been secretary of our Wilson club for 10 or 12 years, and she runs our website, and the entire district’s website, too. She is a true go-getter.”
Muscoreil pointed out that the Lions started accepting women as members 28 years ago and they now comprise more than a quarter of their world-wide membership.
A Wilson resident for three decades, Muscoreil also has served on the Wilson Town Board for the past 10 years, and has delivered Meals on Wheels for the past five years, as well.
These days, he’s also part of a global membership team for the Lions, tasked with helping start new clubs around the U.S.
“I was asked by Lions Clubs International to be a consultant,” he said. “There are 20 of us in the United States. I was just down in North Carolina recently and helped form a club there. We’ll go anywhere in the United States. Our goal is to have two million Lions by 2020.”
With a staunch supporter like Muscoreil, that goal seems within reach. He is eager to talk about the organization in the hopes of educating the public and drawing new members and recently took some time to chat about what he calls “the best kept secret around.”
“My heart is with the Lions because I believe we make a difference,” he said.
How did you first get involved?
Years ago, Diane and I were walking through the cemetery here and saw a bunch of men cleaning it up for Memorial Day. It was a cold and rainy day and I asked them what they were doing. It was one of their civic projects for Lions Club. They asked me, ‘Why aren’t you a Lion?’ I didn’t even know what it was. But they invited me to a meeting, and I joined.
I was vice president, then president, then zone chairman, where you’re in charge of five clubs. Then I became a governor and I was in charge of 50 clubs.
And what’s your goal now?
My focus now is to try and get out and form new clubs. We formed a new club in Lewiston while I was governor and they said we’d never be able to do that, because the Kiwanis Club is so big there. But we did it, and it’s a very successful club, making a difference in their community.
What about the Lions appeals so much to you?
I see the difference we can make. We started a club on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo about six months ago under the guidance of past district governor Nancy Luckman, and we’re about to start a new club on the Elmwood Strip in Buffalo now. We have 19 and we need one more member to get chartered. One just started at Canisius College and another in North Tonawanda.
The Lions Club offers people the opportunity to give back to their communities and there’s no politics and no religion involved. It was established in 1917, so next year is the 100th anniversary for Lions International and its 75 years for our Wilson Lions Club this year.
What are some of the things the Lions do?
If a child in school needs glasses, we’ll pay for the eye exam and the glasses, if they are in need. We have a vision screener that cost $7,000 and we take it to pre-schools and with parents’ permission, we screen the kids. Fifteen percent need some medical attention and if we can catch it early, it can be corrected.
We support our food pantry and our library. We support seeing eye dogs -- in fact, one is named Wilson. We have a loan closet -- it’s actually in my barn -- and we have walkers, wheelchairs, canes, portable toilets -- and people can borrow them for as long as they need them. We can even get beds. We pay for hearing aids and we buy eyeglasses for adults, too, and support the sightless bowlers. If there’s a need, we’ll take care of it.
But how do you raise the money?
We have fundraisers and every penny goes back to the public.We have golf tournaments and collect under the lights during the big Memorial Day event in Wilson every year. We also give scholarships -- this year, we’ll give close to $7,000. Floyd "Red" Clark was a 50-year Lions member, and the Clark family gives us $5,000 each year for this.
Do you have any upcoming events?
We'll have a Halloween party at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 31, at the Wilson Number One Fire Hall, 250 Young St. We have a costume contest and a parade and the kids get donuts, cider and candy. And this year, we’re going to have a pumpkin competition, too, where they can bring their carved pumpkins from home for prizes.
How many members do you have in the Wilson Club and how do you join?
We have about 30 members in Wilson and we meet the first Monday of each month at Millie’s Inn (One Sunset Island Road, Wilson). I’m the head of membership. If you want to be part of helping your community, call me at 628-8052. We’d love to have you. One member can affect 70 people’s lives - you can make that much of a difference!