Lions Club leaders challenge members to charge ahead

Sun Journal

Dana Biggs, the Lions International directorDuring the current economic recession, Lions Club members should push to help the community more, several of the organization’s international leaders said Saturday.

About 400 Lions Club members from Burlington to Southport were in New Bern for the organization’s annual midwinter convention. On Saturday afternoon, almost 100 members had a chance to ask Dana Biggs, the club’s international director, questions during a “town hall” meeting at the Sheraton New Bern Hotel.

Warren Schmidt from Cary and Donna Gavette from Mount Olive listened well and took notes. Other Lions asked how to find membership pins and register for conventions on the Internet. Lions from Cape Fear, North Raleigh, New Bern and other clubs participated.

Biggs’ husband, Bill, told the members that they should find more money during the recession because communities need more help than ever.

“It’s not a time to pull our horns in,” he said. “If you have 10 projects, don’t say you can fund five and can’t find money for the other five. Find a way to fund all 10 projects.”

Dana Biggs said almost 1.4 million people in one of 206 countries belong to Lions clubs. Almost 70 people belong to the two Lions clubs in New Bern. Biggs is from the Fresno, Calif., area and joined the club because she saw a lot of women were joining the formerly all-male organization.

She said she also liked that the Lions participate in a lot of different projects.

“You could build a gazebo in a handicapped park or help a cancer society,” she said. “It’s just anything the community needs. That’s what makes this club so unique.”

Theresa Matthews of Denton said many Lions in North Carolina help blind people get jobs. She said some companies manufacture products like brooms, and 75 percent of the employees must be blind. Lions clubs sell the products the blind people make to help pay for community projects.

Tom Behm of Wilmington asked Biggs how his club could find brooms for a fund-raiser. He said several of the manufacturing companies have recently closed, which has made it hard to find the products.

“Some people seem to think brooms are synonymous with Lions,” Behm said. “So the brooms are very important to what we do.”

Biggs told Behm to talk to other people during the convention to find places to buy the brooms. She said Lions in California do not sell the brooms. Lions members from other clubs told Behm several organizations in Western North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia sell the brooms.

Biggs told Behm and the other Lions to support new clubs and members. She said the organization’s membership is rapidly expanding in Eastern Europe and China.

“There’s a place for everyone here,” she said. “Especially right now.”