Portage Lions get ready for 43rd radio auction

March 12, 2019 GMT

Supporting the Portage Lions Club on March 30 is remarkably simple, members said.

All that’s required is a fondness for treasure.

“Just look through this window,” Nancy Schaper advised at Turning Point Realty on DeWitt Street, where she and other Lions sorted through items for the organization’s 43rd radio auction.

Through the window, Portage residents might spot ways to support the club’s eyesight mission in the form of hand-carved cribbage boards, autographed Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers memorabilia, handcrafted quilts, clothing, paintings, lamps, tables, stools, benches and more.

“It’s such a big undertaking for one of the smallest (Lions) groups in the state,” member Kristi Radant said as she applied auction numbers to the steel decorations of fish, foxes and ferns.

With about 18 total members, the Portage Lions Club gets help with the auction from about a dozen more people from St. Mary’s School.

They couldn’t do it without four hours of donated radio time from Magnum Media, which each year broadcasts the auction on WPDR-AM/1350. The generosity of local businesses that donate hundreds of items and gift certificates to be auctioned off also make the event possible.

Lions thanked the Portage Area Chamber of Commerce and other downtown businesses that are, right now, handing out the auction booklets to their visitors — the booklets detailing the more than 500 radio auction items — and they thanked Cory Otto, who donated his downtown space to display the items.

“I really think we’re the only club that does something like this,” Schaper said of the radio auction. “It’s very unique. People say things like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to bid against you.’ They have fun.”

The auction is the group’s biggest fundraiser every year.

The Lions Club — which launched in Portage in January 1968 and held its first auction in the mid-1970s — aims to raise $10,000 from the auctions each year.

That support allows Lions to provide more than 600 vision screenings for children in the Portage area every year and to donate thousands of eyeglasses to people all over the world, among other projects.

“We collected about 1,900 pairs of eyeglasses just over the past 6 months,” said charter member Emil Mravik, who noted that he’ll soon deliver those glasses to the district Lions Club convention in Middleton for distribution in countries including Mexico and Guatemala.

The club puts boxes all over town to collect eyeglasses, which then get taken to the Lions Eye Glass Recycling Center in Rosholt.

“The people who get these are so appreciative,” Mravik said. “They need them.”

Each year, the local club issues three $1,000 college scholarships and one $1,000 scholarship to a person of any age for job improvement.

It also does highway cleanup, holds an annual school-supply drive and supports various local organizations and projects, including the Portage Area Caring Tree at Christmastime and the Portage Service Club Association, which is now working on a performance pavilion for Pauquette Park.

Last summer, the Lions Club helped procure two benches at Silver Lake Park, and soon the group will also install a water fountain at the splash pad in Goodyear Park, Schaper said.

The Lions Club transports eye tissue for corneal transplants in each June as a group, averaging about 25 trips made to Tomah or the Wisconsin Lions Eye Bank in Madison.

Portage Lions meet at Dino’s Restaurant at 5:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month.