Day by Day
A century in, service still vital for Lions
Feb 13, 2017
By LIZ THOMPSON
This year marks 100 years of service for the Lions Club International, the world’s largest service organization.
A total of 46,000 clubs with more than 1.4 million members — men, women and youth — do whatever is needed to help their local communities.
In 1917, a Chicago businessman named Melvin Jones, whose personal code was, “You can’t get very far until you start doing something for somebody else,” founded the Lions Club International. The slogan, an acronym, became “Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nation’s Safety.”
In 1925, Helen Keller (See photo at end) challenged Lions at the club’s convention at Cedar Point.
“The opportunity I bring to you, Lions, is this: to foster and sponsor the work of the American Foundation for the Blind. … Will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in this crusade against darkness?”
Her speech marked the beginning of an era of vision service and support that would come to define Lions for decades.
Bill Schultz, chairman of the Ohio Lions Marketing and Communications Committee, said the club will re-enact the speech during May’s State Lions Convention in Sandusky. Canal Winchester member Jackie Christensen will present the speech in character as Keller, Schultz said.
Locally, the Westerville Lions Club was chartered in 1928 and is the oldest service organization in Westerville.
“This past Christmas, at our holiday gathering/meeting, we found out about two families in need and on the spur of the moment we passed the hat and raised $400 to provide a better Christmas for those families,” said Lion Howard Baum. “The generosity of our members is amazing.”
Mike Kerek of Reynoldsburg said, “Being a Lions Club member … is an attitude, a belief, in service to others.”
Since 1948, the Reynoldsburg club has raised more than $500,000 to be reinvested into the community.
Although helping those with vision problems is their main focus, each club looks for what is needed in its community.
Kerek said his club supports a plethora of organizations, including Special Olympics, the Central Ohio Diabetes Association, Pilot Dogs, disaster relief foundations, eye banks and vision-related business. Club members also have made several trips to West Virginia with donations for flood relief.
“As a Lion since 1999, I have had many moments where the intrinsic rewards made me understand how important the services we provide are,” Kerek said.
Bob Scheetz of Worthington said his dad was a charter member of the Lions Club for 30 years in his hometown of West Lafayette.
“Clubs focus on needs of their particular community,” he said. “Our club (also) has a focus on the Worthington Food Pantry and young children’s literacy through Worthington Libraries. We sponsor the Worthington Summer Reading Program.”
Duane Shaul said the Grove City club began in 1939. Every year, its members set aside funds to be able to help someone get a Pilot Dog. The cost is $10,000. Each week, Shaul and others walk Pilot Dog puppies, helping them learn social skills.
“I would love to let more people know who we are and what we do,” Shaul said. “We do not keep any funds for administrative expenses.”
This club helped fund e-sight goggles — computerized goggles with a camera that relays images to the brain — for a blind Grove City student to see his parents for the first time.
Bob Dotson has been a member since 1998, starting in Athens County before he moved to Powell. The Olentangy Lions Club is four years old.
“Many hands make light work,” Dotson said. “The biggest need of Lions, and other service organizations, is members. Get involved. Make a difference.”
My personal interest in Lions began in 1997 when they trained my first Hearing Dog, then my second in 2009.
I was delighted by the enthusiasm of these members who gave me an abundance of information. Since I cannot write it all here, I encourage you to seek information at lionsclubs.org, support their fundraisers and donate eyeglasses.
As Dotson said, “Maybe you can be the one person that makes a difference in someone’s life.”