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Our History

After sponsorship by the Rehoboth Beach Lions Club, the Dewey Beach Lions Club was founded on March 16, 1951. Much like the town we reside in, the Dewey Beach Lions Club has a very colorful past.

For many years, members of the club helped a local land squatter by the name of Johnnie Waples. Quite the local character of Dewey Beach, John would spend his summers renting boats in the Rehoboth Bay, while during the winter, he would work for the State of Delaware tracking tides. When John became ill, many of the members took care of him on a daily basis, ensuring that John received proper medical care, food, friendship and other necessary items.

After John’s passing, his parcel of land was passed to the Lions through his will with the stipulation that the Dewey Beach Lions Club always maintain a playground for the children.  Over the many years since John’s passing, many fundraisers have taken place to cover the cost for the construction for and maintenance of the John Waples Memorial Playground.

Some of these include regular events such Barbecue Dinners, Clam Bakes and Oyster Eats as well as specialty events like wrestling matches, horse shows and light bulb sales.

Operation Santa began in the 1950’s and at that time was held at The Bottle & Cork.  This event regularly saw two to three hundred local children who would each receive dinner as well as gifts from Santa.  Today this remains a major event for the Dewey Beach Lions Club.  Each year a list of local needy children is compiled and the Lions spend an evening shopping for gifts. Later, Lions and their wives gather to sort and wrap the gifts for the children.  These are then distributed through the local schools.

For many years, members of the Dewey Beach Lions Club helped a local land squatter by the name of John Waples. Quite the local character of Dewey Beach, John would spend his summers renting boats in the Rehoboth Bay, while during the winter, he would work for the State of Delaware tracking tides. When John became ill, many of the members took care of him on a daily basis, ensuring that John received proper medical care, food, friendship and other necessary items.  In return for this kindness, John left  approximately 5 acres of land to the Dewey Beach Lions Club in his will.

The John Waples will is posted on the Club House wall between the Melvin Jones recognition plaques for Charles Simes and John Waples.  Erwin “Dicky” Seimes (was also the first president of the Dewey Beach Lions Club when it was founded in 1951) witnessed the signature of John Waples will.  After John’s passing, his parcel of land was passed to the Lions through his will with the stipulation that the main condition of his will – that the Dewey Beach Lions Club provide a “Playground for the Children” – be carried out.

Over the many years since John’s passing, many fundraisers took place to cover the cost of the construction and maintenance of the John Waples Memorial Playground. Today, The John Waples Memorial Playground is the foundation of our club.

In addition, the Dewey Beach Lions Club help start the first Dewey Beach Lifeguard Patrol which is still in full operation for approx 60 years. Simes owned a small general store in Dewey Beach where he would store the Dewey Beach Patrols emergency equipment for them.

Note: The information was collected from Charles McKinney – a former Dewey Beach Lion member back in the 1950’s.