Touchstone Story #56–After the Flood

In Lions Clubs International’s first 50 years, local clubs had done their best to provide aid and hope in times of great need. But there had not been a good way to harness the collective power of Lions, other than through outside organizations. That all changed in 1968. LCI established its own charitable organization, initially called Lions International Foundation, to gather and distribute funds to Lions districts for humanitarian efforts and disaster relief, and to combat global problems such as sight loss.

The foundation was on firm footing and ready to assist when on June 9, 1972, what looked to be just an average summer thunderstorm halted in its path over the Black Hills of South Dakota and dumped 12 to 15 inches of rain in a matter of hours. It didn’t take long before the water began to rise in the canyons below.

That evening, Canyon Lake, a manmade lake just upstream from Rapid City, S.D., USA, swelled until its dam burst, sending a wall of water crashing down a creek onto Rapid City residents. The flash flood was one of the worst in U.S. history, claiming the lives of 238 people, injuring more than 3,000 and leaving 5,000 people homeless. Survivors spent hours clinging to trees and rooftops before being rescued, only to find little trace of the life they knew just hours before.

Their cries for help were heard not only by Lions on the ground, but by Lions around the world. In 1972, the foundation made its first grant to District 5-SW for US$5,000 to assist the South Dakota flood victims.

Hurricane Agnes struck just a few weeks later, flooding towns along the eastern seaboard from New York to the District of Columbia. Once again, Lions got to work. The foundation donated thousands of dollars to Lions serving the victims of the hurricane while individual Lions clubs also lent a hand. After their club was destroyed in the hurricane, Lions in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, USA, collected clothing and household goods for other local victims.

The foundation soon had opportunity to expand its reach to other humanitarian needs around the world. In December 1972, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake shook the city of Managua, Nicaragua, bringing down homes and businesses and killing thousands. Meanwhile, India continued to suffer from the ravages of a years-long drought. The foundation sent US$20,000 to Nicaragua and US$26,809 to a district in India. It also made a US$10,000 grant to a sight conservation program in Bangladesh.

Renamed Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) in 1980, the foundation is still helping local Lions meet needs large and small all over the world. Because of its support—and the backing of 1.35 million Lions—when a disaster strikes or humanitarian need arises, there are few limits to what Lions can do to help.

Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. They’re a great resource for promoting service at your club meetings!

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