Local Lions Club helps give sight to the world

By Lorene Parshall, Staff Writer

Gaylord-LionsGAYLORD — The Lions Club began in 1917 when a 38-year-old Chicago man, Melvin Jones, asked himself a question.

“What if people put their talents to work improving their communities?,” he asked.

The first Michigan Lions Club was formed in Marquette in 1919. In 1920, the Lions Club went international when it established the first club in Canada. Today, there are 1.35 million members in more than 46,000 clubs around the world.

Helen Keller, born blind and deaf, was a world famous author, speaker and political activist. In 1925, she challenged the Lions to become “Knights to the Blind.” The Lions accepted the challenge and provide aid to the vision impaired to this day.

Lions Club International changed its constitution to allow women to become members in 1986. Before that, women were restricted to the Lioness Club program.

The Gaylord chapter was chartered in 1966 with 18 members. Their motto is “we serve.”

“I believe in giving back to my community,” said Gaylord Lions Club president Mary Weitzel. “I’ve had vision problems since I was 4 or 5. What a way to give back to the community when you’ve had vision problems yourself and understand the need for proper vision. We focus on vision, hearing and diabetes because diabetes can cause vision and hearing loss.”

A few of the numerous activities the Lions Club does to fulfill its mission is to provide vision care and hearing aids for Gaylord residents. The club donates annually to Leader Dogs, Michigan Eye and Tissue Bank and Paws With A Cause and collect old eyeglasses and hearing aids to send to needy countries. The club also provides Kidsight Eye Screening for local preschool children ages 1-5.

Cathy Otto was a Lion before she moved to the Gaylord area and has been a member of Gaylord’s Lions Club for 20 years.

“I enjoy working with a club that is associated with preserving things like a child’s sight,” said Otto. “We have cameras that can detect any undiagnosed and untreated eye diseases and disorders in young children. And the Lions Club is one thing my husband and I can do together.”

Although sight and hearing are priorities for the Lions, the group is active in a number of other ways that benefit the community. Among them are contributions to the Gaylord Gators swim team, Adopt-a-Class, Gaylord High School’s Senior All-Night Party, community meals, the Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner, youth bowling, the Otsego County Food Pantry and the Children’s Bereavement Network.

Every year, the Lions provide scholarships to local students interested in going into a vision or hearing field. And club members make the coffee each year for the World’s Largest Coffee Break at Alpenfest.

The club raises money to support its causes with various types of fundraising. The Lions hold a “White Cane” drive, sell raffle tickets and make money on the newspaper recycling trailer in front of the old Carter’s store. Lions mints are sold in many restaurants. The club receives donations from its Bring-em Back Alive program held at the Loon Lake rest area on I-75 every Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, serving coffee, juice and cookies to help keep motorists alert.

Anyone wanting to donate old eye glasses and hearing aids to the Lions can drop them off in collection boxes at the Otsego County Library, Walmart, New Vision and Gaylord Eye Care Center. For more information about the club call Weitzel at 732-2559 or visit http://gaylordlions.lionwap.org.

Lions club dedicates Good Will Monument

Sault Ste. Marie Evening News

Lions club dedicates Good Will Monument“On February 8, 1950 the Canadian Sault Lions Club commemorated the relations which for a century and a half, have made a fortified border unnecessary, and to dedicate our countries to this relation henceforth.
The symbol of goodwill and mutual understanding existing between the Dominion of Canada and the Sault Ste. Marie, Province of Ontario, Dominion of Canada. The geographical location of the Lions Club of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan defines this monument as a true beacon of International Good Will.
The dedication of this memorial is by the Lions Club of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, for and in behalf of the Lions Club of Canada: and the acceptance by the Lions club of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, is for and in behalf of the Lions Clubs of the United States, so that all may know that nations can live as peaceful and friendly neighbors without fortified borders.”

These were the words describing a monument placement at a ferry boat landing on the American side of the St. Mary’s River, some 61 years ago. Invitees to the event inaugurating the placement of this Good Will Monument, were Melvin Jones, founder of Lions International and Lions Clubs International President Walter C. Fisher of Queenstown, Ontario Canada.

With the construction of the International Bridge connecting the twin Saults, the ferry service was discontinued and somehow the monument was destroyed and the plaque was misplaced.

After 50 years, the plaque was discovered in a garage and Tom Brown and Bill Munsell, both Lions, made sure the plaque was cleaned and a re-dedication of the monument went into the planning stages.

The official commemoration ceremony took place on November 6, with over 80 in attendance.

Munsell, the Master of Ceremonies, introduced Lion and Mayor Tony Bosbous, along with former Sault, Ontario Mayor, Stephen Butland, SD 10, DG Jim Wash, 1st VDG A-5, Andy McRae, 2nd VDG Jerry Stephens, SD-10, Lion President Glenn Thompson, and Sault, Michigan KL Ron Beacom.

Each speaker praised the eternal link between our two nations and the monument was unveiled. The inscription on the monument for all visitors reads:

“Eternally linked through Lionism by a bond of international fellowship as infinite as the universe and as everlasting as time itself, the Lions of the Dominion of Canada dedicate this monument to the Lions of the United States of America as a symbol of good will and mutual understanding among all nations.”

After a first time visit to the new City Hall on the old Federal grounds, the crowd adjourned to the Cisler Center on the campus of Lake Superior State University and listened to a highly motivated speech given by Lion Chief “Buzz” Melton of Wyoming, Illinois. This charismatic former Fire Chief of Baltimore, captivated the audience with his “Do Something” speech, and comments.

The ceremonies continued as Buzz Melton met with Lions from Pickford, Drummond Island, and the Les Cheneaux Lions from Cedarville at noon on November 7. All Lions benefited as he continued his speaking engagements that evening at the Dafter Lions Club and the Fire Science students at LSSU the next day.

The celebration of the Sault Lions Club’s 76th anniversary was a success, with the Lions  re-dedication of the “Good Will Monument.”

Take Part in Our Commemorative Coin Campaign to Help Raise Millions for LCIF

How much is a Lions’ silver dollar worth? About $8 million. That’s how much we hope to raise for LCIF if the U.S. Congress passes a commemorative coin bill honoring the centennial of Lions in 2017.

Getting Congressional approval is not automatic. Congress passes only two commemorative coin bills each year. But many Lions including past international presidents, past international directors and other members are lobbying their congressional representatives to pass the bi-partisan legislation. If approved, the U.S. Mint will produce as many as 400,000 coins. After the U.S. Mint recovers its cost, a $10 surcharge for every coin sold will go to LCIF and its programs for the visually impaired, the disabled, youths and victims of natural disasters.

The commemorative coin idea originated with two members of the Sandy Spring Lions Club in Maryland. Brother Meredith Pattie, a past district governor, and Alan Ballard were at a luncheon for Melvin Jones Fellows when they began to brainstorm ways to support LCIF.

“Our first idea was a coin for the 50th anniversary of the death of Melvin Jones [in 1961]. But we realized we were too late for that,” says Pattie. They eventually formed a nine-person Lions’ committee from District 22 C that includes Past International Director Joseph Gaffigan.

Co-sponsors of the Lions Clubs International Century of Service Commemorative Coin Act, H.R. 2139, are Rep. Peter Roskam, whose district in Illinois includes Oak Brook and LCI headquarters, and Rep. Larry Kissell,  from North Carolina who is a Lion. Another Lion, Senator Jerry Moran from Kansas, introduced the bill, S. 1299, in that chamber. The bill needs 290 co-sponsors in the U. S. House and 67 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate to pass.

We ask all Lions to write or call their representatives to urge them to co-sponsor H.R. 2139. Our Web site offers tips on contacting lawmakers and includes a regularly updated tally of number of co-sponsors.

Challenge to Change: Re-branding Lionism

Mahendra AmarasuriyaAs the International President for 2007 – 2008 of one of the world’s biggest NGOs, Lions Club International, Lion Mahendra Amarasuriya brought a singular honour to Sri Lanka as the first Sri Lankan to hold such an internationally recognized position.

During his leadership year, accompanied by his Lion Lady Kushlani, he was able to instill new thinking and a new sense of direction to the Lions worldwide. In a display of his strong leadership ability and a commitment to innovative thinking, Lion Amarasuriya introduced a novel programs titled “Challenge to Change” to the Lions, spread across 202 countries.

Given his background of steering some of Sri Lanka’s strongest blue chips towards success, Lion Amarasuriya’s concept of change resonated well with the current phase of thinking globally. Lion Amarasuriya strove to “re-brand” Lionism to be more relevant to the 21st century. He also stressed on inclusion of young people in the clubs “they are the future and the torch bearers of the Lions Club in the years to come” he noted.

From small beginnings in 1917 in Chicago, USA with the inspiration of Melvin Jones, its founder, Lions experienced a tremendous growth in the 20st century. In 1995, the global membership stood at 1.425 million.
From small beginnings in 1917 in Chicago, USA with the inspiration of Melvin Jones, its founder, Lions experienced a tremendous growth in the 20st century. In 1995, the global membership stood at 1.425 million. Although the leadership envisioned further growth to over 1.5 million, such an increase in membership did not re-place, with 2003-2004 being exceptions, the other years saw a decline

Although the leadership envisioned further growth to over 1.5 million, such an increase in membership did not re-place, with 2003-2004 being exceptions, the other years saw a decline.

It stood at 1,292,000 when Mahendra Amarasuriya took over the mantle of leadership in 2007. Under the slogan “Challenge to Change”, Lion Amarasuriya’s innovative proposals began to take effect across the world, among the Lions.

He encouraged the Lions to include new technology – use of e mails and internet and web based communication were actively encouraged. He also promoted Internet clubs and a special effort to bring in women into membership.

Women were first admitted to Lions Clubs in 1987. Under “Challenge to Change,” Lion Amarasuriya recommended that new clubs include one third women and one third young people in the membership. He also encouraged the Lions to plan and execute projects on a well planned basis rather than going into ad-hoc projects, thus enhancing the visibility and the success of the project.

Under the Core Programs, a list of challenges that needed to be achieved were included in the “Challenge to Change” program. Starting with a challenge to re-brand the Lions Clubs in order to bring them into alignment with the needs of the 21st century, the list covered many other aspects such as attracting a young membership.

A challenge to grow in terms of being a quality Lion and a challenge towards developing quality leadership, able to understand the dynamics of the 21st century, were among other goals.

Stressing on the need for sustainable projects, he encouraged a three year cycle and long term planning processes in order to ensure sustainable growth. He initiated a global team which he called the “20K team” which spear-headed the membership development programmes with a target of achieving a net group of 20,000 members. He targeted specific growth in membership in different regions – from the USA and Canada to Central and South America, The Caribbean, Europe, The Fast East, Australia, New Zealand and India, South Asia, Africa and Middle East region, known as ISAAME constitutional area.

During his leadership, Lion Amarasuriya visited over 50 countries, participating in various projects. Having instituted changes at a global level, he also made recommendations to clubs to initiate change at a local level. He required the clubs to have short interesting meetings on a novel platform – including music and karaoke. There would be better involvement and participation, it was envisaged, with such innovative changes.

With a target of achieving, 1,250 new clubs, under Amarasuriya’s leadership, an overwhelming response was seen in the formation of 1,718 clubs, a first ever in the history of Lionism the world over.

The challenge to include at least 25-30% membership of 40 years of less and to include a 25-30% women in the new clubs formed, saw the infusion of new blood into the clubs at the end of the year, a net growth of 15,800 members were achieved, a record in recent times.

A challenge to enhance the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) by increasing the number of Melvin Jones Fellowships to 350,000 was also planned. A donation of Us $ 1,000 to the LCIF recognises a Lion as a Melvin Jones Fellow and “Challenge to Change”, there was a rapid increase in Melvin Jones Fellowships thereby enhancing the ability of LCIF to fund projects in all parts of the world.

Challenge to Change also stressed on the flag ship project of the Lions worldwide, Sight First. Inspired by the famous Helen Keller to become the Knights of the Blind, back in the twenties, the Lions Sight First programmes worldwide have its thousands of lamps for those living in darkness.

The Challenge to Change plan included a challenge to raise Sight First funding to US $ 150 million a stretch target of US $ 200 million, a three year fund raising campaign which was successfully completed in 2007/08, during Lion Amarasuriya’s tenure as Lions International President, which brought in great honour to Sri Lanka.

Challenge to Change also included a “Challenge” to revive and develop the Leo Movement which is targeted at the youth, to achieve its maximum potential. In addition, a ‘Challenge’ to expand the Lions Quest Programme, a world renouncing youth development programme, to be extended to 50 countries, was also achieved.

Challenge to re-engineer the Lions PR effort globally was also focused, giving a fresh new commentum to the brand of Lionism. It also targeted bringing Lionism in line with modern thinking and innovation.

In all aspects, “the Challenge to Change” was indeed able to usher in fresh thinking into Lionism worldwide, motivating the Lions to reach new horizons, with fresh insights and opportunities. Challenge to Change inspired Lions to embrace change with a level of dynamism and motivation not achieved during the recent history of global Lionism.

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.