Nevis Lions Club member Marv Vredenburg was presented with the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award from the Lions Club International recently after being nominated by his local club.

This Fellowship Award is the highest form of recognition a Lions member can receive and is given in recognition of humanitarian work and ideas. The award was established in 1973 in honor of Melvin Jones, founder of Lions Club International.

Marv is a charter member of the Nevis Lions Club, established in 2002, along with Wayne and Marilyn Luksik.

“I didn’t know much about the Lions at that time,” he said.

Vredenburg lives in the Nevis area. “I spend summers at the Akeley campground,” he said. “They have a Lions Club, too, and we do a lot of stuff together and help each other out on projects that need extra hands.”

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Vredenburg said he had no idea they were presenting him with this award. “I had my hunting clothes on when I came to the meeting,” he said. “I was wondering why my brother, Randy, was at the meeting. Well, someone had told him I was getting the award.”

Vredenburg retired from his job in civil engineering with the Hubbard County Highway Department about four years ago, having worked there for 32 years.

“I do even more volunteer work now,” he said. “I’m busier than heck. I also work for my brother-in-law, Bruce Kriens, delivering equipment for his company BCI during the winter over a five-state area.”

Serving others in many ways

Marv said he learned the value of service to others by the example of his parents, Orville and Gladys Vredenburg. He grew up south of Akeley, near the village of Chamberlain.

“My mom, along with raising 11 kids, was doing something for us and the neighbor kids all of the time,” he said. “My dad was always helping people. He was on the White Oak Township Board for 25 years. And when we were teenagers growing up, he took us boys in the back of the truck and brought us to help numerous old couples who lived around the area.

“I remember one time in particular we went to help this old, old couple. They didn’t have enough wood, so he brought two of my brothers and I. We were grumbling about it, and he told us to just do it because we’d be happy if we were old and someone helped us out. We cut, split and piled wood all of one day to help them. And it was a good feeling to know we had helped them.”

Once he was an adult, Vredenburg said, that lesson to help neighbors and anyone in need stayed with him.

“There are so many people in this country who don’t do anything to help anyone,” he said. “If everybody lived like that, it would be a pretty hard world. I don’t always make all of the meetings, but I do what I can to help when I can.”

“Our Lions motto is ‘we serve’ and that’s what he’s done in so many ways,” Nevis Lions Club president Barb Deery said.

In the 19 years that Marv has served as a Nevis Lions Club member, he has received many awards, including the Membership Key, Membership Advancement Key, Builder Key, 10-year Chevron, 15-year Chevron, Monarch Chevron, Silver Centennial Lion, Gold Centennial Lion and the Diamond Continental Lion pin.

He has served as president, club membership chairperson and chairperson for the Nevis Lions Club Lions’ roadside clean-up.

Vredenburg also served on the Nevis School Board for 22 years, in addition to being a substitute bus driver for the district. He retired from the Nevis Fire Department after 20 years of service and served six years on the Nevis Township Board.

Vredenburg is also very active in the American Legion. He served five years in the U.S. Air Force. He’s a national life member and was the first director of the American Legion Riders motorcycle group. This fall’s benefit ride raised over $500 for the All Veterans Memorial in Park Rapids. He was their scholarship committee chairman for 10 years. He is also a member of the honor guard, the executive board and Sons of the American Legion.

He said he also plans to join the Akeley Veterans and Community Outreach Group.

“I’m also the actuary at the White Oak Cemetery in Chamberlain,” he said. “Actuaries lay out the gravesites for burials and keep track of everything,” he said.

Always willing to help

“Marv is always willing to help all the time no matter what,” Deery said. “Every event we have, he pitches in and does what needs to be done. He’s got a great personality, very friendly. He’s just one of those guys who is very involved in the community and really cares about the community.

“The Nevis Lions Club would like to thank Marv for his dedication to our club and to our community. His commitment has not only made our club a success but our community a better place.”

The Nevis Lions Club meets the second Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Nevis Senior Center. The club is open to anyone 18 or older, with younger family members welcome to attend and participate in fundraising events as Lion Cubs. Vredenburg said new members are welcome.

“We do a lot of good things for the community,” he said. “We raise money and donate it to organizations and projects. We buy glasses for kids in the community who need them. Not all families can afford to buy glasses for their kids, but they’re a necessity to learn.”

Current service projects include recycling a variety of plastics through a program called “Recycling Beyond the Bag.” They also collect used eyeglasses to give to people overseas who need them and collect empty computer ink cartridges to raise money for a project called the Zach Johnson Cancer Fund. The Lions have also taken over hosting the annual Easter Egg hunt in Nevis and recently organized a “Holiday Mail for Heroes” project with help from community organizations and schools.

“With COVID, it has been harder to do service projects, but we serve where we can,” Deery said.