Annual Pork Steak Barbecue fundraiser supports club's eyeglasses collections, vision screenings, youth tennis programs and other outreach efforts

HANNIBAL – A familiar aroma floated in the Wednesday breeze, as the Hannibal Lions Club hosted their annual Pork Steak Barbecue at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. in Central Park.

Event Chair and Lions Club First Vice President Doug Mills said that Lions Club members were busy with numerous tasks— slicing tomatoes, grilling dozens of pork steaks near the park pavilion, assembling meals and selling tickets — for the estimated 1400-1500 meals that visitors would eat at the park or take along with them. The event has been a Hannibal tradition for 32 years, replacing the previous fish fry when the cost of catfish climbed too high. Mills said the fundraiser supports many outreach efforts for the Hannibal Lions Club — and the primary mission is vision.

The Hannibal Lions Club is the oldest club in Missouri, celebrating 99 years in November. The club is also number one in recycling eyeglasses for residents of third-world countries, said fellow Lion Bobby Heiser. Mills said that vision improvement is the club's primary mission, including eyeglasses collections and vision screenings for people in need. Lions Club members have been able to distribute more eyeglasses than before through a partnership with the Hannibal Free Clinic, Heiser said.

Club members also sponsor a youth tennis clinic each summer, support youth sports and donate scholarships. Heiser said the youth tennis clinic provides a boost to the Hannibal High School tennis program by honing participants' skills and encouraging them to join the sport.

“It's something they can do for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Mills observed how each Lion took on their tasks smoothly for the barbecue. Club members rotate responsibilities and titles each year, and they were greeted with pleasant weather for the 2019 event.

“Today is just perfect — nice breeze, temperature down,” he said. “Everybody knows their responsibilities is what's so nice about this — it's so organized.”

Mills thanked Hannibal Clinic and Shelter Insurance agents Eddie Lennox and Mark Danner for donating a pair of 20-foot by 40-foot tents, and he was grateful for support from Walmart, Sherwin-Williams, Lowe's and everyone in the Lions Club.

“We all participate, and we certainly appreciate everyone's support in the community coming to our event today,” he said.

Mac and Carol Fisher sliced tomatoes with fellow Lion Ron Meyer. They all enjoyed the chance to do their part to help give back during the organization's largest fundraiser.

“It's a tradition in Hannibal,” said Carol Fisher. “Everyone in the community looks forward to it.” Meyer recalled joining the effort decades ago with Mac Fisher when the civic organization was hosting the fish fry that preceded the Pork Steak Barbecue.

“I've been doing it for over 35 years — I'm not sure how many, it's been a long time,” Mac Fisher said.

Teresa Nett picked up her meal to go, and she agreed that the event was a welcome tradition for her and fellow residents.

“It's good food and a good time — and good people and a good cause,” she said.

Heiser expressed his gratitude for the community's support for Hannibal's numerous service clubs and the work they perform.

“Hannibal's a wonderful town,” he said.

tmcdonald@courierpost.com