For the past century, Lions around the world have been willing to meet the call to lead their fellow members. Whether at the club level or the board level, Lions international presidents help set a vision of service and do whatever it takes to enable the association to thrive.
Dr. W.P. Woods (pictured above), a physician from Evansville, Indiana, was elected the new association’s first international president in 1917 at the first Lions Clubs International Convention. Lions also elected a first vice president and second vice president, and ever since, the vice president positions have helped prepare future leaders for the responsibilities and rigors of the office.
Serving as the president of the world’s largest service organization is an honor, but it is also a challenge. The international president travels the globe almost the entire year, visiting clubs, attending board meetings, speaking with dignitaries and bringing attention to special projects, among many other activities. “I think I traveled about 330 days,” Past International President Dr. Tae-Sup Lee from South Korea said of his year in office, 2003 to 2004, which focused on building up membership numbers.
Efforts to visit clubs strengthen the bonds of friendship and keep Lions connected. Seeing firsthand the scale of Lions’ programs and their impact on individuals is also life-changing.
“I once used the terminology that we were improving the quality of life for a lot of people,” said Past International President Jim Ervin from Albany, Georgia, who served from 1999 to 2000. “I didn’t really know and understand what that meant until I began to travel and see the real quality of life—that we were making a difference with people.” Ervin, who resided in the same Lions district as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, was instrumental in connecting Lions with the Carter Center and Pfizer to launch a SightFirst initiative against river blindness.
Lions’ leaders have emerged from every background imaginable. Johnny Balbo from LaGrange, Illinois, who served as international president from 1974 to 1975, was once a professional wrestler known as “The Great Balbo.” João Fernando Sobral, who served from 1976 to 1977, was a university professor from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Brian Stevenson, a judge from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, served as international president from 1987 to 1988, while Sid L. Scruggs III from Vass, North Carolina, a retired military and commercial airline pilot, served from 2010 to 2011.
Most presidents have come from the United States, and many hail from the Midwest where Lions got its start. The town of Wichita, Kansas, holds the distinction of providing three Lions presidents—Charles Hatton (1932-33), Claude De Vorss (1964-65) and Dr. William Wunder (1995-96). But as Lions has expanded globally, so have its leaders. Members from New Zealand to Chile, Italy to Thailand have led Lions Clubs. Four presidents have come from Canada. Brazil, India, France, and Sweden have each had two of their citizens become president.
In many ways, the international president is a service position for life. Past international presidents have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share, and they continue to chair committees, visit clubs and offer guidance long past their official terms. The immediate past president also serves as the chairperson of Lions Clubs International Foundation the year following the presidency.
For all their efforts, past, present and future, Lions have only one thing to say: “Thank you!”
In December, Leos and Lions in Latin America and the Caribbean came together to alleviate hunger on International Leo Day as part of the Relieving the Hunger Centennial Service Challenge. Over 800 clubs and nearly 13,000 Leos from 17 countries participated in the initiative.
“For us, it was an opportunity to work with Lions clubs and our communities in order to achieve a common goal, providing food and nutrition to poor families,” said Leo Sebastian of Chile. Lions and Leos collected food donations from community members and distributed the food to vulnerable families.
Are you interested in building better relationships between Lions and Leos? Consider planning and executing a joint service project. Lions and Leos have a great opportunity to learn from each other, so start building the relationship today and serve together!
The Abington Lions Club in Massachusetts, USA, were hesitant when they first kicked off the Million Penny Project. The goal was to collect 1 million pennies for their community – that’s $10,000 that they planned to donate to the Abington Library for iPads, large print books and new technology for conference rooms.
Watch the video above to learn how Lions and their community rallied around the Million Penny Project, reaching their goal of 1 million pennies within eight months.
Visit the Lions Videos page for more videos of Lions around the world serving people in need. Download videos from the site to share at your next meeting or event, share on social media, and help spread the Lions message!
Lions around the world share many values and interests, but there’s one thing they don’t have in common: language.
While Lions Clubs International was born in America’s Midwestern heartland, Lions’ ideals of service and community engagement have captured the imagination of people around the globe. Lions are active in more than 200 nations and every time zone.
The expansion represents powerful evidence that the Lions’ fundamental message of service is universal. But it also represents a challenge.
The Lions’ overseas growth moved into its highest gear in the years following World War II, and soon the English language wasn’t enough to serve its members. In the decade after the war, clubs opened in France, Norway, Sweden, the Philippines, Pakistan and other countries. By the end of 1950, the LION Magazine was being published in seven languages. By 2015, the LION Magazine appeared in 20 languages.
From Azerbaijan to Vanuatu, Lions speak to the need for service. But in order to keep Lions’ mission from getting lost in translation, Lions go to great lengths to convey one clear voice to its far-flung clubs.
Lions Clubs International maintains a staff of 26 in-house translators and language assistants at its international headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, USA. Every day, the translators convert a mountain of text into LCI’s 11 official languages, including English. “We’re a clearinghouse” for all kinds of Lion international communications, and the task continues to grow, said Beirut-born Silva Melkonian, who speaks four languages and is a manager with the headquarters translation operation.
The volume and variety of foreign-language materials that flow in and out of the headquarters is daunting. Letters, emails and manuals have to be translated from English into Swedish, French, Japanese, Finnish, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Italian and Korean—all the official languages in which LCI conducts business. The documents include financial records, grant requests, annual reports, policy documents, seminar information and board-meeting transcripts.
The translators’ work is challenging, and not a chore that’s easily outsourced. “Lions have their own lexicon,” with specific language and specialized acronyms, said Melkonian.
The work frequently moves beyond simple conversational text. Lions communications often involve complex financial terminology, medical terms and legal language that translators take pains to research to make sure the translation is precise. For example, translators work hard to stay current on the technical language relating to cataract operations and corneal transplants—information that is vital to Lions’ global fight to prevent blindness.
Thanks to Lions’ translators, Lions are staying connected all around the world.
Today’s post features an interview with Leo Katie Jo, president and charter member of the Sundre High Leo Club. Katie Jo will be attending this year’s Lions Day with the United Nations on March 12, 2016, and will participate in a round table discussion on the topic of Gender Equality and Peace.
Being a Leo has enabled me to voice my ideas and opinions, and make a positive change in my community and in my world. The Leo Club Program has helped me develop my public speaking, listening and organizational skills. I have always felt welcomed and valued in the Leo club, which has given me the confidence to make an impact. It has channeled me into a life of service, and played a huge part in helping me to realize my passion in helping others.
Gender equality is important to me because it’s important for the good of today’s society. Society will not reach its full potential as long as the potential of half of the population is not met. The issues we are facing today will need the benefits of the full population. Women have irreplaceable values that can make society and the world’s economy flourish.
My Leo club has done much to address gender equality issues, and I am so proud of our work. Last year, we created and delivered $4,000 worth of care packages to the Central Alberta Women’s Shelter to make the women and children who utilize the services more comfortable. We also hosted a Compassion Week at our school, raising awareness and showing support to those in our school that may feel marginalized, such as those who identify as LGBTQ. As well, we hosted a Youth Female Empowerment Seminar where young ladies where trained by a martial artist in self defense; a lawyer came in and discussed legal issues around domestic violence; and the Red Cross came in as well to speak about healthy relationships. We also put together a presentation to show to the Grade Nines in our school what domestic violence is, the impact it has, and how to help someone who is experiencing it.
I believe it is extremely important for young people to get involved and take action about issues that they care about. We are lucky in that there are many avenues for youth to take so that they can make a difference. Youth can start by joining service groups like the Leo club, where they feel respected and empowered. I cannot express enough how strongly I feel about how powerful youth can be in creating change. As youth, we are smart, creative, innovative, and full of endless amounts of energy and passion! If you are a young person who is passionate about creating change and helping others, it is important for you to realize your worth and your ability to be impactful. Collaborate with others, be inspired and don’t be discouraged by setbacks!
I am beyond excited for my trip to New York to attend LDUN. I am really looking forward to be able to have a conversation with people who are passionate about making a positive change and helping young women and girls everywhere to see their potential. I can’t wait to be inspired by those who have done so much, and to come back to my home town with more ideas about how to help my community and my world. I can’t wait to showcase the amazing work my Leo club has done, as well.
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