By: Wesley Doyle
On a sunny weekday afternoon, Wendy Styer has just finished babysitting her grandkids for the day when she finally finds time to sit down and discuss her significant role in public service. Sometimes it’s hard to fathom the amount of time she has spent on projects pioneered by the Murfreesboro Lions Club that have changed the lives of the town’s citizens, many of whom have no idea how those projects have impacted them.
The Lions Club is a nonprofit, community service organization dedicated to providing vision-related services to those in need in the communities they serve. These efforts are carried out by hundreds of clubs across the globe working daily toward helping the communities in which they’re located.
How did Wendy Styer get involved with such a large organization? She simply started as a helping hand to the club, cooking the food served at their meetings held every other Monday in Cannonsburgh Village. But even being outside the club, she saw the work that the members were doing to benefit the Murfreesboro area and respected the members’ hands-on approach to their service efforts.
She saw the planning and giving by the members was a great investment of personal time and energy, so Styer naturally took on leadership roles once she was eagerly invited into the club. It was something significant that she felt was necessary for her personal growth as well as the growth of the community that had given so much to her for so many years. So Wendy Styer officially joined the Lions Club in ‘93, beginning a life of service and adventure that she couldn’t have ever anticipated taking her on so many experiences through life.
When her husband was required to transfer to New York as a commissioned officer in 1997, Styer relocated with him and joined a local club during a time when men dominated the organization. Styer was the first female member of the club she joined in New York when female members were still considered Lionesses at this time; however, Lions Club International was looking to change that by allowing women into the Lions Club alongside men. Many members of the New York club weren’t too eager to accept a female into their membership, but it was a time of transition for the entire club.
Working part time at a local radio station while in New York allowed Styer to meet one of the most enthusiastic Lions she’s ever had the pleasure to meet—Neil Lancaster.
“I originally started cooking for my church on Wednesday nights in 1993, I think,” said Styer. “One of the Lion members was also a church member and always like what I prepared. When the club needed a cook, he asked if I would be interested, so I gave it a try.”
Styer says Lancaster served as a mentor to her on many levels and best describes him as Pappy from “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Styer’s strong friendship with Lancaster inspired her to stay active in the New York club (although apprehensively at first) and continue that service once she moved back to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Life eventually allowed Styer and her family to move back to Murfreesboro, and she was more than happy to jump back into the action of the local club and its efforts to better serve the community through eye exams, a newfound diabetes education effort and other community-wide service efforts. These efforts have motivated her to serve in positions from president to, currently, the secretary of the local club.
She notes several differences between the clubs in New York and the Murfreesboro Lions Club, and she definitely seems to identify more with the efforts of the Murfreesboro Lions Club a bit more.
“Our club here is a lot more active,” she said. “We didn’t really do anything outside the club meetings. Our club here is a lot more active, …and I enjoy that more.”
As she gets older and her grandchildren become more demanding of her attention, Styer hopes that others will look to the Lions Club in order to serve the community in which they live. She has so much passion for giving and believes that most of the community shares that passion, although they might not have as much time or money to give. Little ways of giving can include time on various community projects hosted by the Lions Club, or supporting these efforts and enjoying the company of other Murfreesboro citizens by buying tickets to various events hosted by the Murfreesboro Lions in their clubhouse in Cannonsburgh Village.
“I think that Murfreesboro has a great Lions Club [and] a lot of people whose hearts are in the right place,” she said. “It’s a great organization to be a part of. It speaks for itself.”
Styer ultimately attributes many of her leadership, strength, communication and service skills that she has discovered throughout the years to the Lions Club. She hopes to pass along her passion of service and courage to her grandchildren through love and time— two of her highest expenditures as a member in the Lions Club.
Although Styer wishes that she would have joined the Lions Club much earlier, she definitely feels that her natural connection to a strongly service-oriented club on a global and local scale is what has allowed her to give so much time and service to the community around her and create so many memories with fellow members she now considers family.