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Lions are named top volunteers

(ran WEST, EAST, SOUTH editions)

The St. Petersburg Lions Club, which last year rescued the Santa Parade when it appeared the annual tradition would die, has been named Volunteer Organization of the Year.

The city's Leisure Services Department, which helps put on the parade, honored the Lions and some other organizations and individuals for their volunteer work during the past year.

Other winners will be announced at a 5 p.m. reception today at the Bayfront Center's Sun Pavilion Room.

"We couldn't do all things we do without the help of volunteers," said Lee Metzger, leisure services administrator.

Last year, lack of a major sponsor threatened to cancel the Santa Parade, which had marched downtown since the 1920s. Led by Michelle Simoneau and Daniel Beauchesne, the Lions stepped in and organized the event.

It wound up drawing an estimated 10,000 spectators, the biggest turnout in several years.

The club is the event's major sponsor again this year, billing it as the 75th anniversary parade. It starts at 10 a.m. Dec. 7 at First Avenue S and Bayshore Drive and heads toward the Renaissance Vinoy Resort.