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Lions Club Hits 60 Years With Breakfast
0305 Pre Lions Brkfst 4
Cooking up sausage and bacon for the masses are, from left, Brad Bates, Tony Lopes, and Richard Nimphius at the Oakdale Lions Club breakfast. The club is hosting its 60th annual breakfast this year. Photo Contributed

Two-thousand seven hundred (2,700) sausage links, 500 pounds of bacon, 350 pounds of pancake mix, 25 cases of eggs at 15 dozen per case – that’s 4,500 eggs, 35 gallons of orange juice, and five gallons of pancake syrup.

That’s what it takes to make breakfast.

Breakfast for the community of Oakdale, that is.

It also takes a lot of hard work and dedication. The Oakdale Lions Club has been serving a pancake breakfast to the people of Oakdale for 59 years and its members are gearing up to serve breakfast number 60. The Oakdale Lions Club 60th Annual Ken Ewing Memorial Pancake Breakfast will be offered on Sunday, March 16 from 7 a.m. to noon at the Gene Bianchi Community Center, 122 S. Second Ave., Oakdale. Tickets are $8 and children under eight are admitted free. Tickets are available from any Oakdale Lions Club member, at Oak Valley Jewelers near Save Mart, R & T Power Equipment on West F Street, or at the door. A genuine handmade Pennsylvania Amish quilt will also be raffled off at the breakfast.

The pancake breakfast is a truly a community event, said Lions Club member Steve Jensen. He said the social aspect is a big part of it where people who haven’t seen each other in a long time will visit and catch up while enjoying a warm, wholesome meal. He said it’s anticipated each year by the residents and their extended families – some who travel a fair distance.

The topic of doing a fundraising breakfast was brought up in September 1954 and 38 days later, in October, the Oakdale Lions Club held the first breakfast, recalled Jensen. He added that a lot of food was donated from General Mills that first year.

“We grossed just under $700 and made $600 profit,” he said.

He added that the club at that time was getting involved in building the Oakdale Youth Building, near Oakdale High School, and needed money to cover the project.

Jensen noted that the breakfast quickly rose to a point where 1,000 people were attending. He said they usually made about $400-$500 annually from it. There was also a time when the cost to attend was 75 cents for adults and 50 cents for kids, he said.

Club member Don Allen noted how huge the buffet breakfast was early on and that while today they have about 1,100 to 1,200 attend, they raise more money from it.

“This is one of our major fundraisers. With the money we net we’re able to provide services to the community,” Jensen said.

The Oakdale Lions have supported the local Boy Scouts since the beginning. They also help with eye care to selected students in the schools who are brought to their attention, scholarships to Oakdale High School students, the many flags that are on display around town during the holidays, support to the Oakdale Educational Foundation, and the second place prize for Oakdale’s Distinguished Young Women program. They provide breakfast at Relay For Life of Oakdale, cook lunch for the Society for Handicapped Children and Adults of Modesto, do a dinner for blind Scouts, and they have a medical equipment outreach where they loan items such as walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, and other pieces for those who need them.

Jensen talked about how the breakfast came to be in memory of Ken Ewing. He said that at one time Ewing was chairman of the breakfast and was very driven and had a passion for it. He also noted that Ewing was a great ticket seller and was one of the people who helped make it a success.

Jensen shared that in the early days, sometimes they didn’t have enough equipment to put on the breakfast, so he and Ewing would get in the pickup and go to Moss Rose Bakery to borrow extra pots and pans.

Nowadays, the Oakdale Lions have the equipment and the manpower to fit the large group they serve. Allen said that the club has 56 members and almost all of them show up, about 45 to 50 are there and everybody has a job.

“We own a griddle that’s about six to seven feet long and three feet wide, three guys flipping cakes, two people mixing batter as fast as they’re cooking. Inside there are three cooking scrambled eggs, two cooking special-order eggs,” Allen reported.

“There’s also a crew of five handling sausage and bacon,” Jensen added, “and another crew constantly making coffee. In the buffet line, there are probably 10 members who do the serving.”

“We find if we keep our members on jobs year after year, they’re more efficient. They’ve become specialists. We don’t have to retrain.” Allen said.

“They only let me handle the tickets because I’m a lousy cook,” Jensen quipped.

Allen also shared some special memories over the years of putting on the breakfast. He talked about a couple members who’ve passed away. He recalled that Dr. Lowell Dorius always cooked special-order eggs and would remember people’s egg orders year after year without them having to remind him. There was also Clem Rivera who stood at the end of the buffet line, serving up the butter for people’s pancakes and was always smiling.

Allen considers the breakfast to be a well-oiled machine. For years it took them two days to put on the breakfast, setting up on Saturday and serving on Sunday. Now, to trim costs, and with a lot of experience under their collective belts, the members set up and serve the same day. Some members are there around 4:30 a.m., firing up the grills, he said. The Boy Scouts are also a big help with set up, bussing tables, serving coffee, and clean up.