STANTON — For more than 20 years, members of the Stanton Lions Club could be spotted each winter in various locations throughout town; buckets, spigots and hammers in hand, tapping the city’s abundant maple trees for their sap. Every spring, that sap would be boiled down and reduced into some of the finest maple syrup you’ve ever tasted.
The sale of that syrup went to fund Lions Club projects throughout the year.
But now, due to a number of factors, that’s all coming to an end. The club has Craig-listed its tapping equipment and will be moving its fundraising efforts in other directions.
According to Lion Tom Reese, who for the past two decades spearheaded the project, many club members are simply getting too old to meet the physical demands of the project. Also, some city officials have grown concerned that tapping the trees may in some way, over time, damage them.
“Doing this was always a big project,” Reese said. “We were tapping maybe 200 trees. Now we’re no longer doing it. It’s kind of the end of an era thing. A lot of people have been asking us where the white pails are.
“It’s been a good project, but we’ve gotten a little older and the city of Stanton thought we were hurting the trees,” he said. “Some of the trees are also getting old and some have died or been taken out, things like that. Plus, a lot of our guys are 65 to 80 and it got to be hard work. That’s why we’re quitting.”
At present, the club has yet to come up with another fundraiser that could hope to equal the up to $3,000 the maple syrup sale brought in. During its best year, the club collected over 8,000 gallons of sap, though the average amount was between 5,000 and 6,000 gallons.
The sap was sold Shepherd Sugar Bush in Shepherd, which distilled the product into syrup. According to Reese, Sugar Bush was willing to pay top dollar for the sap; this helped make the effort such a financial success.
Revenues from the project went to typical Lions community efforts such as the purchase of glasses and hearing aids for the area’s financially disadvantaged.
Now that they’ve decided to forego the sap collection initiative, club members are seeking a way to make up the lost revenue. The club hosts other fundraisers throughout the year, including a chicken barbecue and golf outing, but the syrup was a primary money-maker.
“We have projects in mind at the moment to replace this,” Reese said. “We’re talking about it. We hope someone will come up with something.”
According to Stanton Lions Club President Larry Beardslee, the tapping equipment sold very quickly once it was placed on the online classified website Craigslist.
“It started selling right after we listed it, to people from all over the state,” Beardslee said. “They came from all over.”
Most of the equipment was sold within a few days, with the last of it going out within a few weeks.
So this spring, Stanton’s stately maples stand unadorned, bereft of the white pails that for so long helped the Lions raise money for the area’s needy. The trees, like so many of the club’s members, have grown old, and maybe the time has come to give both a period of rest.
Reese thinks so, anyway.
“It’s too bad,” he said. “It was a fun project, but when you get to a certain age, you just need to slow down. You can’t be a coward and grow old. Sometimes, you just have to make the hard decisions.”