Lions Club works to help create menus in Braille

Lions Club works to help create menus in Braille
by Linda Munnelly | Kalamazoo Gazette

One of the first things most customers do at a restaurant is read the menu, thumbing through the pages to figure out what they want to eat. But there’s a group of people who typically don’t have that option — those who are blind or whose vision is impaired.

The Lions Club hopes to change that with their new Braille Menu Initiative, which aims to inform restaurant owners how they can provide menus for the visually impaired.

“It’s something that is long overdue,” said Jeannette Davis, a member of the Portage Lions Club and its Braille Menu Committee. “Everyone should be able to read their own menu.”

Western Michigan University Professor Paul Ponchillia, who himself is blind, supports the project. “Basically, if it (a Braille menu) isn’t offered and if I go alone (to a restaurant), I don’t have access to the same menu,” Ponchillia said. … I mean if the restaurant is busy, like at dinnertime, you can’t say, ‘Can you read me the menu?’ It’s embarrassing. I feel it’s almost a right (to have access to Braille menus).”

Braille MenuTanya Greffe, a Braille Menu Committee member, agreed. “To me it’s something we take for granted as sighted people,” Greffe said. Red’s Grill, on Shaver Road, where the menu committee meets twice a month, is the first restaurant to work with the Lions Club to create a Braille menu.

Before committing to providing Braille menus, however, the Millennium Restaurant Group is exploring some issues such as frequent menu changes, level of demand and cost, said Matthew Burian, food and beverage director of the group.

“The Millennium group is in favor of it, and we’re taking the first step looking into it,” Burian said. “We are counting on the Lions Club for the expertise to produce a good product.”

The Lions Club is working on the menu project with the Michigan Braille Transcribing Fund, the largest nonprofit Braille production facility in the nation, located at the State Prison of Southern Michigan in Jackson.

The cost to create a Braille menu varies with the amount of information on the menu. At Red’s Grill, four Braille menus cost $50.

The Lions Club is attempting to secure grant money from the Gilmore Foundation to publicize the project and to aid some restaurants that want to provide Braille menus.

Lions International nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

• by Barbie Porter

Nobel Peace Prize Medal

While most funds from local chapters remain in the community, some proceeds are sent to the international headquarters, which financially supports leader dogs for the blind, relief during national disasters, youth outreach and exchange programs, a hearing foundation and the Lions eye bank.

“Recently, the Lions organization was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize,” Eldon reported.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is an active Lions member and received the distinguished award in 2002.

“Generally when a holder of the peace prize nominates someone they’re usually awarded it,” Eldon stated.

Eldon admitted he was surprised the organization was nominated.

“This is the first time a service club has been nominated for the peace prize,” he stated. “And we’re just a normal group of people doing volunteer work.”

The Lions Clubs began in 1917 when Melvin Jones, an insurance man based in Chicago, decided to start an organization which would focus on the betterment of communities.

There were a dozen members when it began. The concept quickly spread across the U.S. and went international in 1920 when the first Lions Club in Canada began.

By 1948 the Lions Club spanned the globe, from Panama to Australia.

Today Lions International has more than 1.4 million members in 182 countries.

While the club continues to gain popularity world-wide the local chapter has also seen a slight jump in membership since its inception.

“I joined so I could get to know people and serve my community,” he said, adding Eldon has been a wonderful president and leader for the club.

Eldon said his one fault is not inviting more residents to Lions meetings.

“The meetings are by invitation only,” he said. “But if someone is interested, contact a Lions member and we’ll invite you.”

Upcoming Lions events:

• The Lions International will hold its 92nd convention July 6-10, 2009 in Minneapolis.

Charity leaders offer tips for tough economy, holiday season

(CNN) — Recession questions, housing bailouts, stock market tumbles, growing job losses — faced with troubling economic news at seemingly every turn, many Americans’ first thoughts may be of their own finances before charitable giving.

The Giving USA Foundation found in a study this year that donations don’t keep up with the rate of inflation during recessions. And about a third of Americans think the situations facing the stock market and financial institutions will affect them immediately, but another third think it will affect them eventually, according to an October CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll.

CNN talked with the leaders of six charitable organizations to see what they’re doing to address the tough economic times and what everyday folks can do to make a difference, even without spending a dime.

How is your charitable organization addressing the tough economy and perhaps a higher demand for their services?

JIM GIBBONS, president and CEO of GOODWILL INDUSTRIES: At Goodwill, we understand that to be successful at work, everyone needs to feel confident that their families are healthy and safe and that their home life is stable. One of Goodwill’s priorities is our Family Strengthening Initiative. Our goal is to assess individual family needs and provide access to community resources such as youth programs and childcare so that people can stabilize their families while identifying and obtaining employment opportunities. In addition, we provide financial education and asset development services, including money-management skills, to help people learn how to manage their money and save for the future.

Another way Goodwill aids families is by helping them to earn a paycheck and take full advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit program. Through EITC, Goodwill agencies across the country provide free tax preparation services for working families with children that have annual incomes below $37,000 and who are eligible for a refundable tax credit.

JONATHAN RECKFORD, CEO of HABITAT FOR HUMANITY INTERNATIONAL: Low-income families are in need now, perhaps more than ever, of access to affordable housing. We are asking people to donate to Habitat’s work, to join us as an advocate for affordable housing or to volunteer time to help build houses or serve on a local committee.

Habitat is also developing innovative partnerships across the country. One example is that along the Gulf Coast, Habitat has partnered with the Salvation Army to build even more houses in areas that are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Another example is that Habitat has joined with the not-for-profit organization Thrivent Financial for Lutherans to develop an alliance with its local chapters that have helped to build more than 1,000 houses in the United States since 2005. We are also forming new partnerships, like those with for-profit homebuilders who are developing mixed-income communities that leave room for affordable housing, including Habitat housing. These efforts, among many others, will help Habitat build more homes and serve more families. Our diverse family of Habitat affiliates across the United States is constantly innovating to meet the challenges they face every day, including during the current economic climate.

HELENE GAYLE, president and CEO of CARE: Meaningful partnerships, with the public and the private sector, become even more important in economically challenging times. Fortunately, we have been able to connect with an increasing number of corporations, foundations and individual philanthropists who are eager to devote time and resources to the fight against poverty. Issues such as climate change, the global food crisis, the financial upheaval can increase attention to the plight of vulnerable people; it is our responsibility to help tell their stories and to support them in their efforts to build a better life for themselves and their families. We also are preparing to build new partnerships within the new administration to ensure a continued commitment from the U.S. government to the fight against poverty.

NANCY LUBLIN, CEO of DOSOMETHING.ORG: We just launched a Growth Capitalization Offering, similar to a for-profit IPO. We are bringing the accountability and transparency of the free market to the not-for-profit sector.

AL BRANDEL, president of LIONS CLUBS INTERNATIONAL: Even before the current economic challenge, we were working on plans to make volunteering as part of a Lions Club easier to do. For example, the fastest-growing type of new Lion Club members are families that join as a group. In 2007, we were the first service club organization to offer a family membership plan and to provide hands-on service programs that involve the entire family. We not only made it easier for families to join by offering a reduced membership fee, but many local Lions Clubs — some 45,000 worldwide — are changing when they meet and what projects they run to accommodate today’s busier families. We are really excited about this approach because volunteering often becomes a lifetime commitment for a person when they are exposed to it as children. And in these uncertain times, we obviously need more people to give back to their communities and to help others need.

BRIAN GALLAGHER, president and CEO of UNITED WAY: Live United is a call to action for all people to join this movement. We want everyone to see themselves as part of the change needed in our communities. We’re making greater use of technology to provide opportunities for people to give, advocate and volunteer. Our Web site has simple ways for people to tell their stories, to give locally, nationally or globally, to find volunteer opportunities and to make their voices heard on critical issues. We’ve partnered with several online communities to help spread the word about Live United and with technology partners to offer a cell phone text-to-give option.

If people are short on cash this holiday season, what are some alternatives to monetary donations?

DOSOMETHING.ORG: You might not have money to spend this holiday, but you definitely have time and energy. Use it well. Search our action matrix for something to do with your family or at your church or with your basketball team. Make a difference … and have fun doing it with people you love.

GOODWILL: This holiday season, people should think of Goodwill when cleaning out their closets. Goodwill accepts an array of gently used products including clothing, household goods, kitchenwares and furniture. Some Goodwill agencies even accept vehicles. Donors should check the Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site before donating to make sure they don’t have any unsafe or recalled items.

UNITED WAY: Consider volunteering as a family. Community service is an effective way to teach children about social issues, to show them a different perspective of the world, to advance the common good and to understand that the world is a better place when we care for one another. While enjoying quality family time, you’re also teaching positive values, creating a new generation of volunteers and increasing your family’s commitment to community.

LIONS CLUB: Give your time. If you can’t afford to buy a gift for a loved one, make a point to do something special for that person or persons in your life that doesn’t involve spending money. If possible, encourage your children to spend an hour doing something special for their grandparents. Give your spouse an hour of your undivided attention. You can even print up your own “gift certificates” redeemable for one hour of your time. Be creative. Nothing dictates that a gift has to be of a material nature. It’s important to remember that simple acts of kindness are heroic.

CARE: Instead of buying gifts, people can make a contribution to a charitable organization in a loved one’s name. They can also volunteer — alone or with family and friends — with organizations that provide direct services. And they can host gatherings to share information with others through film and printed materials about the impact of poverty on half the world’s population: people who live on less than $2 a day. Even small contributions can make a huge difference.

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY: There are many possibilities. A family or group of friends could help build a Habitat house in their community or join their local Habitat affiliate to host a fundraiser I read of where a family sold their house, downsized into a smaller home and donated some of the proceeds to support Habitat’s work in Ghana. Of course, many individual supporters give smaller gestures of support, but the spirit is the same. People can always reach out respectfully and compassionately to those near and far who need a hand up.

Tell us about a volunteer in your organization whom you consider a hero.

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY: Personally, I consider every volunteer a hero. Each person who swings a hammer or serves on a committee or sacrifices to make a donation, gives from his or her heart and truly cares about those in need of housing. I find a special inspiration in Habitat’s homeowner families who help to build their own home or the home of their neighbors. Habitat homeowners are committed to being part of their own housing solution, and our mission could not continue without them. I’ve been blessed to meet many of our homeowner partner families around the world and find a true hero in each one.

CARE: Scott Karell, a Boston University junior, comes to mind. A few years ago while helping build a school in Ghana, he was inspired to do more. He’s organized events at schools and even at the local library, getting people to talk about their experiences and help educate others about the world around us. He found dozens of people who could also be considered “heroes,” from a realtor to a fraternity brother to a professor to a 12-year-old who raised $6,000 for children in Guatemala. Scott once said that “the heroes of this country are the ordinary citizens who have answered the call of service to help others. By volunteering, you are helping out that community and ultimately that society.” Young people like Scott are the heroes who are helping make our world a better place.

DOSOMETHING.ORG: Kimmie Weeks should be a household name. He was born in Liberia and was left for dead in a pile of bodies. He lay there thinking, “If I live, I vow to spend the rest of my life helping children in war-torn countries.” Fortunately, Kimmie escaped Liberia and kept his promise. His organization, Youth Action International, brings college volunteers from the USA to six countries around the world to help young people reunite with their families and be educated, among other things. Kimmie is 24 years old. He isn’t someone we’re grooming to lead when he is a “grown-up.” He is someone we are proud to follow right now.

LIONS CLUB: That would be difficult, since we have 1.3 million heroes in our organization. But I will relate an incident that best describes what our 1.3 million heroes do on a daily basis. A few years ago, my wife, Maureen, and I helped our Lions Club and others from our community build a home in New York for a family that has one member with a disability. Maureen dug holes to put in a fence. I used a jackhammer in the basement. It was hands-on volunteer work. When we finished the home, the 5-year-old girl in the family took Maureen by the hand and said, “I want to show you my room.” She had never had a room of her own, and she was beaming with joy. And so were we. It brought tears of joy to our eyes. Volunteers all over the world are recreating that moment each and every day. Volunteers are heroes. Just ask that 5-year-old girl.

UNITED WAY: Young people who are passionate about making a difference really inspire me. Mike Brooks is a great example of an inspiring and entrepreneurial young leader. As a student at University of Iowa, Mike was highly active in efforts to mobilize student volunteers. He created the 10,000 Hours Show, a campus-based volunteer outreach program that culminates in a free concert for volunteers. Mike is now working with United Way to spread the 10,000 Hours Show, Student United Ways, Alternative Spring Break and the United Way Challenge on Facebook Causes to campuses across the country. Through inspiring young people, Mike embodies Live United.

GOODWILL: Goodwill Industries International named Denice Cooper the 2008 Volunteer of the Year. After escaping New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, Cooper relocated to Texas, where she dedicated herself to helping her fellow evacuees as a volunteer. She decided to continue her service by volunteering at Goodwill, where she spent more than 900 hours mentoring children with mental and emotional disabilities. Today, Cooper provides individual and group mentoring as well as structured activities for children served by Goodwill. She also mentors adults with disabilities who are entering the work force and need ongoing support.

Find this article at:

Club Meeting November 12th

Tonight we had our monthly business meeting and the induction of two new members. Our special guests for the meeting was our current zone 6 chairman Keith Wolfe.

I had the pleasure of siting next to our zone chairman at dinner and during the meal he exclaimed that he had bought three sets of tickets for the 50/50 drawing and that he was very confident that his number would be drawn. King Lion Bob Tornow was joking with him that the winner has to sell tickets at the next meeting. As luck would have it the zone 6 chairman did prevail and he did indeed have winning ticket, we will have to press him further about his secret technique.

I also had the pleasure of sitting near one of the new members( Lisa Dunlap) that were inducted tonight. Lisa Dunlap and Richard Lewis became the two newest members of the club, congratulations to you both.

…more to come