Touchstone Story–Winston Churchill

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Sir Winston Churchill, popularly known as “the Last Lion,” was prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1940-45 (and again from 1951-55).  

Known for his masterful turns of phrase (“If you are going through hell—keep going”) almost as much as his wartime leadership, Churchill was also an animal lover. During his lifetime, admirers from around the globe sent him animals as gifts. Churchill, in turn, gave the animals to the London Zoo, where he and the British public could visit them.  

But in 1956, one of Churchill’s favorites—a lion cub—died suddenly in the London Zoo. American Lions decided to honor Churchill, who they called “the greatest lion of them all,” with a new lion, named Rusty.  

Dennis Venning of the Park Forest Lions Club of Illinois, an editor of LION Magazine, was among those who delivered Rusty to the London Zoo. Venning also visited Churchill at his estate, remembering, “Sir Winston remarked it was a good thing we had not brought Rusty along to his home.”  

Rusty the lion lived at the London Zoo before passing away in 1960. Churchill returned the hide of the majestic lion to Lions Clubs International founder Melvin Jones. Today, Rusty proudly resides in Melvin Jones’ office at Lions Clubs International headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois.  

When recounting the wartime leadership he offered his country, Churchill said, “I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.” Lions all around the world can relate.

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!


Celebrating 60 Years of Leos: The Power of Youth

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December 5th is the 60th Anniversary of the Leo Club Program. To celebrate 60 years of Leo history, we will feature stories from former Leos around the world on what being a Leo has meant to them. Our third feature comes from District GLT Coordinator Andreja Stojkovski, who as a Leo realized the power young people have to make a difference in their community. As a member of the Skopje Leo Club in Skopje, Macedonia, his club raised over $7,500 to build a library for their city’s orphanage. Now a Lion, he continues to support and encourage young people’s abilities to effect change, acting as a Leo club advisor for over a decade.

When District GLT Coordinator Stojkovski became a Leo in 1999, he knew he wanted to help his community in any way he could. “I joined Leos because I wanted to spend more time out there serving my community, even by doing simple acts of kindness.” However, it wasn’t until his second year in the club that he saw the true impact he could have as a Leo. As part of his club’s service project, the Leos organized a classical music concert, with a book drive and CD sale, to benefit the building of a library for their city’s orphanage. “The music concert we organized for the orphanage was the first time I understood the power we had as youths. We sold out an entire concert hall of 880 seats, booking 3 opera singers and arranging for the audio recordings which we later sold as CDs. We also worked with corporate sponsors to arrange a book drive, collecting over 5,000 books that day. The whole project brought in $7,500.” He came away from the event with the knowledge that as a Leo, he could do something truly impactful. “Knowing that a group of twenty-something year olds could manage a project of such magnitude was an eye opening experience. Seeing the children with their books made all our efforts worth it.”

After becoming a Lion in 2005, he immediately took on a role as Leo club advisor, and continued to mentor Leos for over a decade. When asked what advice he would give to Leos today, he stressed the impact that being a Leo can have not only for the communities they serve but also for the Leo. “Being a Leo is a life changing experience, not only for the people that you serve, but you as the volunteer. Be the change you want to see in society and become a Leo today!”

For more information on becoming a Leo or to sponsor a Leo Club, visit our website at


MD 23’s Legacy Project Gives Gift of Independence to the Blind

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The most valuable gift that Lions can give to their blind and visually-impaired neighbors is the gift of greater independence.

And that is exactly the gift that the Lions in Multiple District 23, Connecticut gave. For their Centennial Legacy Project, they provided Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, Inc. in Bloomfield, Conn. with two new, fully apportioned and optioned vans for trainers and guide dogs. The foundation partners blind individuals with German Shepard guide dogs, free of charge.

“Connecticut Lions have been working closely with Fidelco since 1961,” explained Hilary Kumnick, Governor of District 23C. “Their trainers travel to clients’ homes to help them learn how to work with these fully-trained guide dogs, and Fidelco needs vans to transport the dogs and trainers. The organization’s 28 vans were rapidly aging, so we decided to supply them with a new one.”

The project was a multiple district initiative, with three clubs—Killingworth, New Haven and Woodbury Lions Clubs—donating US$10,000 each, and the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) providing a matching grant of US$30,000. Each club donated money for the van from funds they raised from various fundraising events.

Guide dogs help the blind navigate traffic, avoid obstacles, manage escalators and get on and off of subway trains. They are devoted to their owners’ safety and independence. Eight years ago, the Killingworth Lions Club raised US$27,000 to provide a guide dog to a client through Fidelco. “Our club is committed to the Lions’ mission of serving the blind, and we have been able to do this through Fidelco,” said club president Tom Keyes.

People are visually impaired for a number of reasons, Kumnick observed. “Some have lost their sight due to diseases or accidents. Some were born blind. Many guide dogs go to US veterans returning from war, where they’ve been blinded by IEDs (improvised explosive devices). No matter how they’ve lost their sight, they all want to live life to the fullest, and these wonderful dogs give them the freedom that most of us take for granted.”

The Lions celebrated their Legacy Project last year with a ceremony at the annual Fidelco Open House and Lions Appreciation Day. In February of this year, the New England Lions Advisory Board (NELAB), MD23 Council of Governors and several Lions past international directors officially presented the vans to Fidelco at the MD23 Mid-Winter Convention. The vans’ artwork recognizes LCIF and the three contributing clubs.

“We’re so pleased to provide these vans to Fidelco to help our blind neighbors enjoy more independence,” said Kumnick. “Our Lions clubs throughout Connecticut and all of New England feel that this partnership with Fidelco is a true manifestation of our vision as ‘The Leaders in Community and Humanitarian Service.’”

What will your Lions club legacy be? This is the last year to celebrate the Centennial with a Legacy Project, so start planning yours today!


Touchstone Story–Lions International Convention

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In 1925, when Lions Clubs International was only 8 years old, the annual convention was held at Cedar Point, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. The Ohio Lions planned to host 4,000 attendees.

In fact, 7,500 Lions converged on Cedar Point. The August 1925 LION Magazine reported that “he was a fortunate man who had a room with a bath, even though he had to share it with some other. Many would amend that and say that the man with any room at all was lucky.”

It was at this convention that Helen Keller, an American icon who was both deaf and blind, spoke to the assembled Lions and called upon them to become “Knights of the Blind” in the crusade against darkness.

Incoming Lions Clubs International President Ben F. Jones of Newark, New Jersey, called this the convention the greatest yet. “Those who have been inconvenienced because of unprecedented number of delegates and guests I am sure will keep smiling,” Jones said. “We are glad that this great association is building men of vision, men who will lead us and help our governments lead us into the greatest future that history has yet recorded.”

The Lions Clubs International Convention, which has been held annually except for 1945, grows bigger, stronger and better every year. At the 1933 convention in St. Louis, Missouri, a resolution was passed stating that at future conventions, the national anthem for every country represented by a Lions Club would be played. This practice later evolved into the Parade of Nations, which in 2015 featured 10,000 Lions from 120 countries, often marching together in traditional clothing of their home countries.

Every international convention sees the election of a new international president, a rousing competition by the Lions All-State Bands, lots of seminars and an opportunity to visit old friends and make new ones.

Past International President Brian Stevenson, from Alberta, Canada, who served from 1987 to 1988, recalled conventions as a time to conduct club business and to spend time with friends from around the world. “It’s one of the great benefits, the friendships you form. We draw people from all walks of life.” Lions in Honolulu for the 2015 International Convention agreed, saying, “The world is so big, but once you all get together it becomes such a small place.”

The 2015 convention was one of the biggest conventions in recent years. About 20,000 Lions and their families spent five days having fun and learning more about Lions. Thirteen-year-old Wei Jin Qian from China, the winner of the 2015 Lions International Peace Poster contest, and 12-year-old Jalen Ballard of Toledo, Ohio, the winner of the 2015 Lions International Essay Contest for visually impaired youth, were honored. Save the Children, an international charity, was presented with the 2015 Lions Humanitarian Award.

“Meeting people from all walks of life all over the world is so engaging, so wonderful,” said one recent convention attendee. The international convention is a unique opportunity to see the growth of Lions clubs and take of stock not just why but how Lions will continue to serve around the world for a century and more.

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


Celebrating 60 Years of Leos: From Club President to Elected Official

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December 5th is the 60th Anniversary of the Leo Club Program. To celebrate 60 years of Leo history, we will feature stories from former Leos around the world on what being a Leo has meant to them. Our second feature comes from Past District Governor Patrick Ene-Okon, who used the experiences and skills he learned as a Leo club president to become a successful elected member in the Nigerian House of Representatives.

While Past District Governor Patrick Ene-Okon has made a career as an elected official and respected academic, he credits his time as the Calabar Leo Club President as the basis for his leadership success. As Leo club president, he developed skills in budgeting, community needs assessment, and report building, which he found easily transferrable when he was elected to the Nigerian Fourth Republic House of Representatives. Of the most important lessons learned as club president, he notes, “the Robert’s Rules of Order (a widely used set of parliamentary procedures) that were used during Leo club meetings were remarkably used in the House of Representatives. When I was elected into my state legislature, I had more experience than any of my fellow newly-elected lawmakers, something I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t been a Leo.”

PDG Ene-Okon now works as a professor at the University of Calabar, teaching journalism, public relations, advertising and organizational communications. When asked what advice he would give Leos today, he says, “Be passionate in serving youth, and take every advantage of the leadership development opportunities in the program. It may be very handy in the future. ”


For more information on becoming a Leo or to sponsor a Leo Club, visit our website at


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