Downtown Huntington Lions Club (West Virginia) celebrating 90th anniversary

LACIE PIERSON | The Herald-Dispatch

W.Va. Gov. Jay Rockefeller (holding shovel) and Secretary of State A. James Manchin plant a tree with the Downtown Huntington Lions Club outside what is now Big Sandy Superstore Arena, circa 1977. The local Lions Club is celebrating its 90th anniversary.

HUNTINGTON — It was safe to say that not one charter member was present this week as the Downtown Huntington Lions Club celebrated its 90th anniversary.

However, it also was safe to say that club member Linden Chiles, 88, held the closest position to a charter member of all of the club’s current members.

“I joined the club in 1952,” Chiles said. “My father-in-law was one of the original members of the club in Huntington, and I was enthusiastic to join the club.”

During the past 60 years, Chiles said he has seen the club go from a club of 50 members, up to more than 100 members, who met at the Prichard Hotel, before settling to about a 30-member group that meets at the Pullman Plaza Hotel the first and third Thursday of each month.

“It always felt like we were working with what we had no matter how many people were there,” Chiles said. “I’ve always thought we do good work with limited people and limited income.”

Chiles is one of many club members and local leaders who will be at the Pullman Plaza Hotel this Saturday — not for a meeting, but for a celebration of 90 years of service and camaraderie.

Earlier this week, Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe issued a proclamation in honor of the anniversary, and he is expected to be one of many people to attend the event.

The Huntington Downtown Lions Club was formed during a meeting of 89 local businessmen in 1922, just five years after the club was founded by a Chicago business leader.

The charter for the Huntington Club was issued on March 11, 1922, making it the fourth club to be chartered in the state, following Charleston, Parkersburg and Wheeling.

Since then, the group has taken to the streets to help with everything from establishing a playground in West Huntington in 1927 and assisting in the relief effort following the 1937 flood to the current co-sponsorship of the Huntington Red Cross Bloodmobile and relief efforts in Wayne County following severe storms that struck the area earlier this month.

Of course, even with all of those efforts, the Lions Club is most noted for its efforts in providing vision care for community members of all ages, said Tom Altizer, treasurer of the Huntington club.

“I think with a lot of clubs, you don’t know what it is they do unless you’re involved in them or you use that service,” Altizer said. “With the Lions Club, we do eye screenings and provide glasses all over the place, and I think those activities are what people notice the most even though we are involved in everything from maintaining athletic fields to helping people recover following a tragedy.”

The Huntington Lions club has purchased more than 13,000 pairs of glasses for un-insured and under-insured residents of Huntington in addition to collecting more than 300,000 pairs of glasses to be recycled and redistributed throughout the world via Lions International.

With all of that work, it might seem like club members could get tired of one another, but Chiles said those experiences only serve to bring them closer together.

“I enjoy it. I enjoy the camaraderie of the members. I’ve gotten to be personal friends with them over the years, and what keeps us together is that we all enjoy what we do,” Chiles said. “We do a lot of good work in the community and nationwide, and the whole reason anyone joins the club is to give back to the community. The friendship just comes in with that.”

That friendship is something Altizer said he hopes can be carried on well into the future.

“We all would like it to continue and grow. I hope the club is able to stay deeply involved in the community like it is,” Altizer said. “I stay in it because I enjoy it, and it provides a service to the community. I hope more people can find that enjoyment through the club.”

St. Michael Lions Club Set for Annual Ice Fishing Contest

By Mike Schoemer

Worried about thin ice? Forget about it, the St. Michael Lions say. There’s a layer about 16 inches thick on Beebe Lake today, and with temperatures at night below freezing, that’s not going anywhere.

“We’re more concerned about a storm,” said Joe Dehmer, a longtime Lion and one of this year’s organizers for the annual St. Michael Lions Ice Fishing Contest. “This is such a family event, we love it when we can have some good weather and get the kids out there.”

The ice fishing tournament, which runs from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, is one of the largest fundraisers for the local Lions Club, which shares Lions International’s mission of service and eye health. Funds raised from this year’s tournament benefit everything from local scholarships (for St. Michael-Albertville High School graduates) to other community service projects.

“It’s really a great group of guys, very talented,” said Jim Pichler, another of this year’s organizers. “They work hard at it. But it’s a lot of fun.”

This year’s ice fishing event promises to be a lot of fun, as well. Pichler said the community support from local businesses has been “amazing,” with prizes from Hardware Hank, Cabela’s, Marketplace and many more.

The St. Michael-Albertville Boy Scouts will be on the lake selling refreshments.

As for Dehmer and Pichler, they’ll be on hand judging fish and making announcements.

“You get the kids running up to you with fish of all sizes, and you want to make each one feel special,” Dehmer said. “It’s pretty fun.”

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids. They are available from Lions members or at the Hardware Hank store in St. Michael. Raffle tickets are $5 each and get anglers a chance to win items like a Vexilar fish finder or a Strike Master gas-powered auger, among other items.

KRWC Radio will be on hand with contests, and a live broadcast as well.

Due to the warm temperatures, participants will not be allowed to park on the lake. The Lions (in their traditional yellow vests with the purple logo) will provide parking instructions and some shuttles to the ice.

Holes will be drilled Friday evening by the Beebe Lake Association, so anglers should be careful when they head out to find their spot.

Former N.Y. detective got Lions involved in disaster relief

by: April Cunningham

leftAl Brandel was a police detective working on missing persons cases in New York City after 9-11 when he realized his work as a Lions Club member could help first responders in need.

Retired New York police detective Al Brandel was guest speaker at the Lions International conference in Saint John.

“I was sort of decompressing for a day or two, and I got calls from Lions Club members in our areas, and they said ‘You’re the leader in this area for Lions. We’ve got to do something,’ ” he said.

“That was the first time we got involved in disaster relief.”

He mobilized his club to build shelters for police and fire personnel, providing food, water and resting places at Ground Zero, as the search for missing people continued into the colder months.

Since then, Brandel – the former president of Lions Clubs International – has worked on first-response in countries around the world, including Haiti and China. The retired detective has visited 60 of the 206 countries where the Lions operate.

“We wrote the book, pretty much, on disaster relief, then after that, the book was used to help me when some of these natural or man-made disasters came along.”

Brandel, who has won prestigious awards for his work in Haiti, was the keynote speaker at the Atlantic Canadian district conference for Lions Clubs International on Saturday. More than 150 people from across the Maritimes, Newfoundland and Maine attended the conference at the Delta Brunswick in Saint John.

Brandel said he wanted to share some of his international experiences with local volunteers, and encourage them to continue helping out their communities.

“I’m here to say thank you to them for what they do in their own communities,” Brandel said in an interview Saturday. “I want to make them feel good about being members of our organization.”

George Mitton, the council chair of the local district – called Multiple District N – said he heard Brandel speak at a Lions conference in Saskatchewan in 2007 and knew it would be worthwhile to bring him to New Brunswick.

The conference also works to train leaders and provide information they can bring back to their clubs. There are 242 Lions clubs in Atlantic Canada, with about 5,700 members.

“It’s also a great opportunity for the Lions to get together, share new ideas and new strategies to provide more community service, and that’s what it’s all about,” Mitton said.

The Lions Club is a leading provider of humanitarian service worldwide, Mitton said. It has also helped local disaster relief in the flooding along the St. John River in 2008, and in Newfoundland after Hurricane Igor last year.

The club is also a strong supporter of youth programs, including its Lions Quest Canada educational program, which provides resources for teachers to provide social and emotional learning.

The aim is to prevent such issues as bullying, and give children tools for better conflict management.

Elgin Lions Club celebrates 90 years of service

Elgin Lions Club celebrates 90 years of serviceTo mark the Elgin Lions Club’s 90th anniversary, the club is holding a celebration from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, with a cocktail reception at the Holiday Inn, 495 Airport Road in Elgin.

Many dignitaries from other Lions clubs, the Illinois Lions organization and a past director of Lions International will attend. There will be music, a cash bar and hors d’oeuvres.

The cost will be $10 per person. Reservations are requested. Contact Lion Marry Merrell at

The Elgin Lions Club was organized Oct. 25, 1921. The first president of the club was Walter Rippberger, who was a local banker. Many prominent Elginites have been Lions Club members over the years. Mayor Erwin Schmidt was a longtime member, and Lyle Zeigler of Ace Hardware was not only a member of the club, but was also the District Governor in 1948-49.

Over its years of existence, the Elgin Lions Club has contributed in many ways to the welfare and culture of the Elgin area. Currently, the local club’s primary mission is to assist members of the community with their eyeglass needs.

The Elgin club is just one of the 46,000 Lions Clubs that make up the 1.35 million members of Lions International, the world’s largest service club organization.

The club is proud of its contributions to the welfare of the people it serves and is looking for new people who share its devotion to service to others.

Knights of Sight Recognized by Hazlet Board of Education

Hazlet and Middletown, N.J. – The Hazlet Township Board of Education recognized the Middletown Township Lions Club Vision Screening Team, the ‘Knights of Sight,’ at their regular meeting on Monday, October 3rd. The volunteer vision screening team recently tested the eyes of 254 kindergarten students at the Sycamore Drive Early Childhood Learning Center at no charge to the school district. Superintendant of Schools Dr. William O. George III, Ed. D., Assistant Superintendent Dr. Bernard F. Bragen, Jr., and Board of Education President Stephen F. Willig presented certificates of appreciation to each member of the team.

Sight preservation and prevention of blindness are major global initiatives of Lions Clubs throughout the world. Middletown Lions Sight Committee Chairman Rich LaBarbera stated the purpose of the screenings is to detect common eye ailments such as lazy eye, shaking eyes, and refractive errors like near-sightedness and far-sightedness. Noting that lazy eye is one of the leading causes of blindness in children, he clarified that the condition can be corrected up until the age of eight.

Lion volunteers conduct the vision screenings using special cameras know as Welch Allyn Suresight Vision Screeners. Team members receive extensive training in the operation of the cameras. The Suresight Vision Screeners take digital readings without physical contact, and results from the exams are sent directly to the South Jersey Eye Center, Camden, where they are evaluated by medical doctors. Parents are notified of any problems.

To date, the ‘Knights of Sight’ have performed vision screenings in the Middletown Township and Red Bank School Districts and will be visiting the Matawan School District in the near future. Several thousand students have had their eyes tested.

The Middletown Township Lions Club, chartered in 1946 under Lions International, is a volunteer service organization consisting of men and women who help the community through various charitable service programs and fundraising initiatives. The club assists individuals and families by underwriting free eye exams, eyeglasses, and hearing aids for those who cannot afford them and also donates funds to local charities that advocate for the blind and visually-impaired. Members also volunteer directly at The Kitchen at St. Marks Food Pantry, Keansburg, by purchasing, preparing and serving meals to the hungry.

The club has instituted a capital campaign – ‘Hear Their Voices’ – which will guarantee the continuation and expansion of all charitable programs. Checks can be sent to the Middletown Lions Club, c/o Lion President Lori Anne Oliwa, P.O. Box 75, Middletown, N.J., 07748 and should contain a designation for the capital campaign in the memo area. Membership in the Lions is by invitation. The club meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month

Crosby Lions Club internationally recognized, welcomes public to attend meetings and to join


Crosby Lions ClubDedicated to accomplishing a humanitarian agenda through community service, the Crosby Lions Club has earned recognition from Lions Clubs International. The international organization has planned for the November edition of its worldwide magazine a feature on Crosby Lions Club’s exemplary use of social media.

The international recognition coincides with the Crosby group’s concerted effort to attract more members and thus to spread Lionism, the organization’s 1917 founding doctrine, which principally entails eyesight conservation and aid to people who suffer from vision loss. Sponsoring eye exams, to include preschool vision screening, and collecting recyclable eyeglasses strictly for overseas distribution, are aspects of the mission.

The international organization’s magazine will focus on the Crosby Lions Club’s ideally trend-setting Facebook page — — a digital seedbed for broader community service and perhaps for recruiting additional Crosby Lions and Leos. The latter is a Lions Clubs community service organization that is centered on providing for its youth and young adult members “leadership, experience and opportunity.”

“In a short number of months, the number of our friends on Facebook went from maybe around a thousand to like 8,000 to 9,000, and that was just a matter of using social networking … and I think it was just [by] befriending people,” Crosby Lions Club President Marcus Narvaez said, adding that the club has developed a global following. “We’ve had a tremendous amount of response from friends. Somebody recognized that we had a lot of increase in friends on Facebook. That was the story, using a social network to spread the word of Lionism.

“We are a fairly new club. So we use [Facebook] as an easy way to do it, a free way to do it, just to reach out there and see how many members we can reach in our community.”

Ultimately, Narvaez said, Facebook will help the club to inform residents “that we are a mainstay, and we are here for the community. We are there to help the community out.”

Its volunteer projects enumerated on its Facebook page and on its web site — — the Crosby Lions Club has been helping the community since it was chartered on Nov. 19, 2007. Its outreach includes individuals, not solely neighborhoods or broader regions. Indeed the president, whose wife, Julie, is also a member, was about to call a friend in need when The Observer called.

“I’m going to call an elderly lady who is having problems with her glasses,” Narvaez said. “I am going to call her to help her out and see what we can do for her, either get her new glasses or actually get her eye exams or whatever. I don’t know the extent of the help she needs from our club, but we are going to try to help her as much as we can.”

The Crosby Lions Club welcomes into its ranks, prospective Leos included, anyone who wants an opportunity to give back, no matter number of hours that can be donated through volunteerism. Although there is information about the club online, there is a face-to-face way to learn more about how Lionism makes a difference and how one may become a part of the team.

The club traditionally meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of the month at the Crosby Independent School District Operations Building, which is located across from Crosby High School at 14703 FM 2100. The meetings are open to the public. Oct. 4 and Oct. 18 are the dates of the next scheduled meetings that one may feel free to attend.

Virginia’s Oldest Lions Club marks 90th year

By Sandy Wells

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Ninety years ago, on a hot afternoon in late September, a spectacle in downtown Charleston brought the city to a virtual standstill.

A behemoth seaplane, the first ever to visit Charleston, rose smoothly from the wharf at the end of Capitol Street and roared over the city — a demonstration to promote a proposed commercial seaplane line from New Orleans to St. Louis.

Spectators jammed the South Side Bridge, craning their necks. On city sidewalks, pedestrians stopped to gawk at the sky. In buildings all across town, people leaned from open windows, peering for a better look.

That same day, something else took place downtown, something of far more lasting significance.

In a dining room at the nearby Ruffner Hotel, buffeted from all the commotion, a group of civic leaders gathered for the first meeting of the Charleston Lions Club.

Nine decades later, few recall the mighty seaplane’s visit; the commercial line never got off the ground. But the stalwart Charleston Lions Club remains a community icon to this day.

At 6 p.m. on Sept 29, the oldest Lions Club in West Virginia, joined by members from other district clubs, will gather at the Summit to celebrate the Charleston organization’s 90th anniversary. Robert Browning of the Pineville Lions Club, a former international director, will be the featured speaker.

The year the local club formed, America was re-energizing after World War I. Warren Harding was president, Adolf Hitler became chairman of the Nazi party, Atlantic City hosted the first Miss America Pageant and Coco Chanel introduced Chanel No. 5.

In West Virginia, repercussions from the mine wars dominated newspaper headlines along with Ku Klux Klan violence in the south and problems with Prohibition.

In Charleston, a special commission wrestled with plans to replace the state Capitol, after fire destroyed the Capitol Street edifice in January.

On the day of the first Lions Club meeting, the Gazette ran an editorial decrying the manipulation of crude oil prices. Sports pages reported that Babe Ruth was suffering from grippe.

The Strand Theater offered Cecil B. DeMille’s “Affairs of Anatol” with an all-star cast that included Gloria Swanson. Honeydew melons sold for a dime at the Piggly Wiggly.



From the beginning

“Lions International was only four years old when we started our club,” said 86-year-old Jason Conley, a former president and district governor. “The international was formed in 1917 in Chicago.”

During the first Lions Club session at the Ruffner, the Rev. B.P. Taylor, pastor of the First Methodist Church, explained the meaning of the lion’s head symbol and reviewed the code of ethics.

“The lion has been from time immemorial the symbol of strength, greatness and unrivaled courage,” he said.

Taylor described Lionism as “the greatest degree of strength and courage, the highest and best that is.” It is accepted, he said, that the “lionized” man must accomplish something remarkable for the betterment of humanity.”

Over the years, the Lions Club’s “betterment for humanity” credo has centered primarily on the preservation and restoration of sight. Through the Sight Foundation, Lions provide eyeglasses and eye operations for people who can’t afford them. They also sponsor eye exams, screening clinics and an eye bank.

At a Lions convention in 1925, Helen Keller dubbed the organization “Knights for the Blind,” citing the many contributions to eyeglasses, cornea transplants and other sight-related projects.

“The main thrust is service to the community,” said current president Darius Sigmon, “and the Sight Foundation is still our primary focus.”

Other programs are aimed at combating drug abuse and diabetes, helping the deaf, disabled and elderly and providing college and summer camp tuitions for those in need.

To fill the fund-raising coffers, members have sold brooms, light bulbs, license plates, perfume and Blenko bowls. They also raise money through community events.

In 1929, the Lions Club sponsored the first “Water Regatta” on Labor Day. (A speaker from Western Electric predicted that some in the audience would live to see television perfected.)

For years, the Lions Club sponsored the North-South football game.

In 1960, the group introduced the first West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference basketball tournament. City manger Hugh Bosely, a Lions member, helped get the ongoing benefit off the ground.

During Jason Conley’s presidency in 1972, the tournament enjoyed a record turnout. “The game was in the old arena at the Civic Center,” he said. “Morris Harvey was playing West Virginia State in the final game. The place was teeming.

“The fire department came and threatened to shut us down because there were people standing in the aisles. They broke the back doors trying to get in, and we had to pay to get them fixed.”

In 1981, the club’s 60th year, Charleston Lions made a $12,500 pledge to struggling Sunrise that included a $10,000 challenge gift. In an editorial, The Charleston Gazette praised the organization for its altruism and chastised the Charleston Rotary for not contributing more to the community.

“At one end of the spectrum is Charleston’s Rotary Club, one of the community’s oldest service clubs and surely its most prestigious,” the editorial noted. “The membership includes the community’s most influential and wealthiest citizens. The club, however, does next to nothing in the way of good works…”

Referring to the Lions Club as “the valley’s busiest luncheon club,” the editorial observed that Charleston Lions are into everything. “When members tackle a task, they do so with gusto and are determined to succeed. A good example is the state college basketball tournament.”

Under Conley’s leadership in 1972, the club purchased the first ambulance chassis for Charleston’s Emergency Medical Service.

A Lions member for 62 years, Conley, a retired insurance agent, joined the North Charleston club in 1949 and transferred to Charleston in 1961 when the North Charleston group disbanded.

Recalling his stints as a light bulb salesman, Conley said the bulbs always sold faster in working class neighborhoods than South Hills.

“I had Washington Street to Piedmont Road and had the best sales of anybody. People would say, ‘Oh, the Lions Club. They help poor people with sight problems, don’t they?’ And they’d buy the bulbs.”

During the state’s 100th anniversary in 1963, special commemorative centennial license plates sold quickly, he said. “We made $1 apiece on each one, and we sold 20,000. We donated $20,000 to the Sight Foundation.”

In 1957 and 1958, the local club enjoyed worldwide prominence when Charleston businessman Dudley Simms served as international president.

John Hutchinson, a future Charleston mayor and congressman, lead the Charleston Lions in 1965 and 1966. His wife, Berry, held the presidency in 1977 and 1978.

Lions International has 1.4 million members in 190 countries.

In 1977, John Charnock, a former club president, wrote a kind of mission statement about the significance of the Lions emblem:

“…In our now turbulent times where strife and violence seem to be the keynote, Lionism has proved that everywhere men can be found who forget all thought of personal reward when they can do some little thing to make life better and happier for others.”

California Lions honored

POMONA – The Pomona Host Lions Club won District Club of the Year at the recent District 4-L4 Convention held in Palm Springs.

The 43-member Pomona club competed against all Division B clubs, which have 26 to 50 members.

Club of the Year was also awarded in two other divisions: Diamond Bar Breakfast Lions Club, which won Division A for clubs with 25 or fewer members, and Seal Beach, which received the prize for Division C, clubs with more than 50 members.

Lions District 4-L4 is comprised of Orange County and parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

The Club of the Year Award is based on a wide range of criteria, which measure a club’s success.

Points are awarded for participation in community and Lions International projects, attendance at meetings, conventions and training, membership increases, administrative functions, publication of newspaper articles, the chartering of new Lions and Leo clubs, district and international visitations, the recycling of eyeglasses, club newsletter, club website, Proud Lion program, new member orientations, service to the district and charitable donations.

Pomona Host President Jack Lightfoot accepted the award from District 4-L4 Governor Norm MacKenzie.

He later reflected upon the award, “It’s a tribute to the leaders and general members of our club to be named club of the year by our district. This is a highly competitive award, given to the Pomona Host Lions by one
of the top four Lions districts in North America.

“Countless hours of dedicated service by many members brought about this recognition.”

The club also won two other awards: the district-wide Bimonthly Bulletin Award and the Visitation Award for Division B. The Pomona Host Lions Bulletin, under editor Barbara Smith, has received the award for five consecutive years. The Visitation Award, under first vice president Amanda Gonzalez, marked its second consecutive win.

At the convention, club president Jack Lightfoot was recognized for his work as chairman of the District Budget and Audit Committee. Gil and Barbara Smith were recognized as chairs of the Disaster Preparedness Committee.

Lions clubs focus on children’s vision

Canandaigua, N.Y. —

Lions focus on children's visionAnna Orcutt thought the smiling face and the blinking red lights were amusing and so did her friends. The five-year-old was one of a number of children at St. Mary’s School last week who looked into the computer face of the state-of-the-art device being used by members of the local club of Lions International to screen young children for vision problems.

“She thought it was fun,” said Anna’s mother, Jennifer Orcutt, a registered nurse at Thompson Health.

More than 400 children of preschool or kindergarten age in the Canandaigua area will benefit this month from the project that pinpoints troubles ranging from congenital cataracts to amblyipia (lazy eye).

Jennifer Orcutt said the screening, offered at no cost, ensures more children get checked for potential vision problems before they become more serious.

“Many visual conditions must be detected early if they are to be successfully treated,” said Corning optometrist, Dr. Ed Cordes, a former international director for Lions Clubs International.

The Canandaigua Lions Club is spearheading this month’s project, called “Lions March for Vision.” It fits a main goal of the Lions International service organization, to decrease childhood blindness through early detection and treatment of the most common vision disorders.

St. Mary’s principal, Ann Marie Deutsch, said vision problems surface at an early age but can often be overlooked or misdiagnosed.

“The school environment is different than at home,” she said. It requires seeing clearly from more of a distance, seeing well in different types of lighting and other factors.

St. Mary’s is one of several schools and preschools, including Care-A-Lot in Farmington and the child care center at Bristol Mountain, where Lions Club members are screening children using the portable, computerized machine with scanning device that provides immediate results. While the screening is not a substitute for a complete eye and vision evaluation by an eye doctor, it does alert parents and teachers when a child needs a problem addressed.

Richard Ernst of Canandaigua, district governor for Lions clubs in the 10-county Finger Lakes region, said about 5 percent of the children screened so far needed referrals. “This allows parents to get their children to an ophthalmologist before the age of six and very possibly cure a problem before it becomes too late.”

Cordes said amblyopia, or “lazy eye” is one of those conditions that must be detected and treated before age six to have the most potential for improvement. “Quality vision screenings can also detect some conditions such as unequal pupil size which may be an indication of a serious systemic disorder.” The PediaVision screener being used in the project allows “one of the most accurate methods available to detect refractive error, eye misalignment, unequal pupils, congenital cataracts, and ptosis (lid droop),” he said.

Ernst said parents sign a permission slip to have their child screened.

For children needing referrals, Lions Club does refer to a specific eye examination center, he said.

“We will provide a print-out of the scan to the parent for them to take to their own eye-care professional.” For families who can’t afford the eye-care professional, “in some cases, if we are notified,” said Ernst, “we can provide assistance directly or through the Ontario Children’s Foundation. Assistance is based on need and the child must reside in Ontario Country.

Lions, Shriners and other service organizations use modern approach to draw recruits

Wearing a bucket-shaped fez and being referred to as “Grand Potentate” doesn’t exactly speak to younger crowds, so Shriners International decided it was time to bring some sexy back. Naturally, they called Justin Timberlake. “You have to definitely step things up in order to make an impact,” said Alicia Argiz-Lyons, spokeswoman for Shriners International Headquarters, which co-hosted a fundraising event headlined by the pop-culture icon and featuring performances by the Jonas Brothers, Rihanna and 50 Cent.

The October event was arguably the Shriners’ flashiest appeal to the younger set in its 136-year history, but other groups, such as the locally based Lions Clubs International and Rotary International, also are facing declining membership and trying new approaches. “In the ’60s or ’70s, we could just put up a sign: ‘We’re forming a Lions Club’ and people would come,” said Peter Lynch, executive director of Lions Clubs International in Oak Brook. “It doesn’t work like that anymore.”

Decades ago, business leaders went out of their way to join service clubs such as Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary, which were founded as networking groups and quickly expanded to do charity work in local communities and then the world. Fraternal organizations such as Shriners and Elks also easily drew in members using similar charitable goals.

But since the late 1990s, social scientists have noted that Americans are less connected, and that rings true for these groups.

Lions International membership dropped from 1.45 million in 1995 to 1.29 million last year, Lynch said. Shriners’ 2007 membership was 393,896, compared with 937,712 three decades ago. In the early 1990s, there were 270,000 Kiwanis members. Today, there are 250,000. Rotary membership in the U.S. went from its peak of 445,434 in 1996 to 375,914 last year, officials said.

The Lions and Rotarians aren’t going as far as booking Hollywood stars, but they’re trying to update their images.

Lions board members from all parts of the world recently met for an emotional, three-hour debate about changing the familiar logo seen on city welcome signs, business awards and Little League baseball caps. With a cleaner font and updated colors, the new logo was sent to all Lions clubs worldwide along with a PowerPoint presentation on how to talk about the group with impact.

And travelers on United Airlines flights may have noticed cartoons about Rotary International’s good deeds mixed in with the in-flight TV reruns. The public service announcements, part of an overall rebranding campaign called Humanity in Motion, were designed to give the Evanston organization a more forward-moving image than the stagnant wheel logo, said spokeswoman Kathy Kessenich.

In addition to a Timberlake golf outing, Shriners are reaching out to fraternities on college campuses with advertising designed for them. The organizations have been offering more creative and flexible opportunities. Instead of meeting monthly, for instance, Lions members can now touch base online in “e-clubs” and only show up for volunteer outings. Instead of holding traditional raffles, new Lions clubs host Wii tournaments as fundraisers, said Sue Haney, who runs membership programs for the organization.

The changes were designed to match the way people seem to want to get involved, especially post-Sept. 11—one event at a time rather than a long-term commitment, officials said.

“People are so busy now that it’s hard to get them involved in community service work,” said Mark Knigge, Lions Club president in Wauconda who is also a Rotary Club member. “It’s still frustrating a little bit, but we keep working at it.”

Despite the major face-lifts, club leaders say some aspects of the longtime organizations will not change to preserve the groups’ history.

Kiwanis International, based in Indianapolis, has no plans to change the “K” logo it has used for years. Its efforts to relate to today’s generation focus more on offering more flexible membership options, such as allowing people to attend meetings online or join through work.

Rick Kohn, regional spokesman for Shriners of North America, said the modern updates have to come in moderation. “We don’t want to have a young person come into a social gathering and have your grandfather’s music playing,” he said. But Kohn quickly added that he doesn’t see the fez caps going away anytime soon. “There’s a certain element of tradition involved in everything we do in life,” he said. “The fez is simply part of that.” “We don’t want to have a young person come into a social gathering and have your grandfather’s music playing.”

—Rick Kohn, regional spokesman for Shriners of North America