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Struggling Lava Lions Club donates $15K to local sheriff’s office

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LAVA HOT SPRINGS — As they struggle to find new funding to secure their survival, the Lava Hot Springs Lions Club made a massive donation to the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday.

“This is a last ditch effort to do good for Lava,” club treasurer Les Bocek said.

The donation will purchase point-and-shoot cameras for patrol units to be used in evidence collection. It will also secure additional file storage space.

Responding to thanks from members of the sheriff’s criminal division administration, Bocek responded by saying the sheriff’s office is the only police agency in Lava Hot Springs, and that the club wanted to support them.

Membership is down, Bocek, a 30-year club member, explained to EastIdahoNews.com. The club is left with hardly any options for fundraising, and few membership dues have been collected. What is left in the bank could keep the club solvent for another year, he said.

“This is the last of our funds,” Bocek said. “We either find another way to raise money or give it up. We’ll see what happens.”

Bannock County Sheriff Tony Manu was at a loss for words discussing the club’s generosity in the face of adversity.

“It’s humbling,” he told EastIdahoNews.com. “It’s very humbling to know that the people we protect are behind us.”

The donation came together quickly, according to Manu. And it did so out of the blue. The sheriff received a call from the club secretary a couple of weeks ago. And at the end of the conversation regarding agency needs, Manu was asked to put together a list of things his office needed and the total price tag.

It was a large price tag, he acknowledged, an ask he thought was too much for the Lions Club. Two weeks later, he got another call saying that the club would be providing the funds in their entirety.

Manu’s response was simple. “Whoa.”

The two sides discussed other needs as well. Following the recent retirement of a sheriff K9 unit, the Lions club discussed paying for the purchase of a new police dog. But with no handler trained, that idea was shot down. New bodycams were also tabled, but those would have served as backups while evidence-collection cameras and file storage space are an immediate need.

“We felt like getting something else more useful now would be money well spent,” Manu said.

The donation was the smaller of two made recently by the Lava Lions Club, which also gave $30,000 to the Marsh Valley School District. That donation will buy the district a new lawnmower, as well as funding two scholarships, for students of Marsh Valley High.

“(The students) have to be from Lava, and they’ve got to need the money,” Bocek said. “We used to do scholarships and it didn’t seem the needy got it, the kids that had the best homes got it.”

A vetting process will be handled by the school district, with assistance from Idaho State University. Applications for the scholarship can be filed with the Marsh Valley School District.

Faced with the potential mortality of the club, its members went looking for “something big,” and landed on these two sizable donations, adding them to an already impressive list.

“We’ve had a lot of success,” Bocek said. “We put about a million dollars into Lava in the last 30 years.”

Thankful for the assistance his office just received from the club, Manu is hopeful it finds a way to survive.

“I just hope they find another source (of funds) to keep the club alive,” he said. “When you listen to the donations they make, you know, wow.”

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