Touchstone Story #27–Chicago Central Lions Club

The Business Circle of Chicago, formed in 1908, would never be the same after insurance agency owner Melvin Jones joined the modest-sized club in 1913. Jones had an idea that business luncheon clubs, such as the Business Circle, should focus on serving their communities. Soon, he began working to connect his club with other like-minded clubs around the United States.

By June 1917, Jones had helped to establish a new organization that would change the lives of millions around the world: Lions Clubs International. Jones’ club joined the movement two months later. Since renamed the Chicago Central Lions Club, it has been an enthusiastic and dedicated supporter of the Lions mission of service ever since.

“We’re continuing the great legacy of Melvin Jones and his vision,” said Richard Carlson, past president of the Chicago Central Lions Club.

Since 1999, the club has collected more than 50,000 eyeglasses for the Lions’ Recycle for Sight program. Members also periodically provide eyeglasses and hearing aids to the homeless in downtown Chicago, in addition to other service and fundraising programs. The Chicago Central Lions Club has a firsthand perspective on Lions’ work for the visually impaired. Five of its 32 members as of 2015 were blind.

Carlson became a member of the club more than two decades ago after retiring from a career in banking. He wanted to give back to his community, and a former colleague talked him into joining Lions—a decision he has never regretted. He is glad to have the opportunity to serve, whether by playing Santa Claus and bringing club-sponsored gifts to local visually impaired children or by reading for the Chicagoland Radio Information Services (CRIS), a daily service from the Chicago Lighthouse that broadcasts audio recordings of printed periodicals and daily newspapers to more than 40,000 visually impaired listeners. Looking back, it makes clear sense that Carlson would become a Lion. His mother once worked as a secretary in Jones’ insurance firm.

When Jones joined the Chicago Business Circle more than a century ago, he likely never dreamed that his experiences with the club would inspire an organization that today has more than 46,000 clubs around the globe. Jones remained a dedicated member of the Chicago Central Lions Club as he worked to build up the Lions Clubs International, even serving as the president of the club from 1920 to 1921 while also serving the greater Lions organization as secretary-treasurer.

Today, Jones’ home club, Chicago Central Lions Club, is proud of its role in Lions’ history and proud to be one of the many dedicated and enthusiastic clubs carrying out his vision of service.

Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. Don’t forget to share these stories with new members so they gain an understanding of Lions history!

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