Don’t miss the new Leadership Development Club Officer Webinar Series!
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What is it that makes people around the world choose to join Lions clubs when there are so many organizations competing for their time and energy?
To find out, Lions Clubs International conducted a global survey of nearly 8,000 members in 134 nations in 2012, and the answer that came back was crystal clear: By a wide margin, the No. 1 reason members gave for joining Lions is “to serve the community where I live.”
The desire to help local communities has been at the heart of the Lions mission from the very beginning, reflecting founder Melvin Jones’ devotion to the concept of service. What if the very people “who are successful because of their drive, intelligence and ambition were to put their talents to work improving their communities?” Jones asked a century ago.
The modern Lions have done just that. With more than 1.35 million members in more than 200 nations, Lions have created the world’s largest service club organization. Lions’ service takes many forms, from providing guide dogs to the blind to cleaning up the environment. But while members differ from one another in some ways, Lions worldwide share a common impulse to help others.
“We’ve gotten a lot of membership just from doing service in the community,” said Ty’East Alleyne-Bunn, past president of the Central Brooklyn Lions Club in New York. New members come on board because “people want to do good,” she said. “People want to help.”
By joining forces with others through Lions service projects, people find they can accomplish more for their community. “As Lions, we give our gift of service throughout the year,” Sid L. Scruggs III, who served as international president from 2010 to 2011, said in a letter to members in LION Magazine. “And because we don’t act alone, but combine our energies, ideas and resources, we are a mighty force for good.”
Joining the Lions offers a way to make new acquaintances, take part in fun outings and enjoy stature in the community. But it is service that ranks as the single biggest reason for becoming a Lion, with 63 percent of the respondents rating service to their community as the main reason for becoming a member. No other answer topped 50 percent.
Other reasons for joining: being with friends (37 percent), the prestige of being part of a large international organization (16 percent), being with family members who are already Lions (12 percent), networking to grow a career or business (9 percent), and receiving tangible recognition for accomplishments (5 percent). Members were allowed to list more than one reason.
“Before I joined the Lions, I only knew it was an honor to be a member,” Wing-Kun Tam of Hong Kong, China, who served as international president from 2011 to 2012, said in an interview with LION Magazine. “After I joined, I started to understand the spirit of Lions.” It was only then, he said, that “I understood we are to help the needy and share our happiness with others.”
Last week, Lions clubs volunteers from around the United States converged on Washington, D.C. to meet with congressional representatives and their staffs to discuss issues important to Lions and their local communities.
Jimmy M. Ross, of Quitaque, TX represented the Lone Star State in this annual event known as Lions Day on Capitol Hill. Mr. Ross, a former president of Lions Clubs International, met with Representative Joe Barton (R, district 06) and staff members from several other Texas congressional offices to solicit support for full funding of Title IV, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which includes provisions specifically designed to elevate social emotional learning (SEL) in public schools. Under the provisions of ESSA, states like Texas and its local school districts now have more flexibility to define their assessments of student success. This includes nonacademic factors as indicators of accountability, such as student engagement, school climate, and safety. The legislation also encourages schools to establish learning environments and enhance students’ effective learning skills essential for academic success.
In March of 2016, Lions Clubs International joined a coalition of organizations formed to urge Congress to fund Title IV Part of ESSA at its authorized level of $1.65B. This was a reaction to the President’s budget request for funding the block grant at less than half the authorized amount.
SEL is of particular interest to Lions. According to Mr. Ross, Lions Quest is a youth development program of Lions Clubs International used in schools in the United States and around the world which helps develop the physical, mental and emotional well-being of children. Mr. Ross stated, “Lions Clubs has witnessed the success of programs such as Lions Quest and has worked to include SEL programs into federal education law. We have made a real difference in improving the school environment for children. If more school districts in Texas implemented programs such as Lions Quest, it would dramatically improve the classroom environment, making it more conducive to learning.”
Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization, with over 25,000 members in nearly 900 clubs in Texas alone.
For more information on how you can volunteer in your community, go to lionsclubs.org.
On the front lines of World War II, the Philippines suffered from years of war and occupation. In 1945, the city of Manila was all but destroyed during a month-long battle to expel Japanese forces occupying the city. Few could have imagined that only seven years later, a group of Filipinos associated with Lions Clubs International would extend a hand of friendship to assist their former enemies in founding a Lions club in Tokyo.
The Philippines had been home to Lions clubs since 1949 when LCI established its first club in Manila. Lions’ message of voluntarily service, international peace and friendship appealed to the newly independent nation. Other clubs quickly formed, and members worked tirelessly to provide aid to neighbors and help their country rebuild.
But the Lions in the Philippines also knew they needed to repair relationships with their former enemies, in addition to redeveloping their homeland. Building international understanding and peace between nations is an important mission of Lions Clubs, and helping to heal old wounds could only benefit both nations.
The Philippine Lions clubs reached out to LCI headquarters, requesting to sponsor a club in Japan. Two Lions from Manila, George Barrenengoa and International Director Manuel J. Gonzalez, led the charge. On March, 5, 1952, when LCI’s First Vice President Edgar M. Elbert presented the Tokyo Lions Club its charter, Barrenengoa and Gonzalez were on hand to witness the historic event.
Gonzalez welcomed Japan as the 35th nation to join Lions by presenting Kin-ichi Ishikawa, the first president of the Tokyo club, with a Filipino flag. Ishikawa proudly gave Gonzalez a Japanese flag in return.
Letters of congratulations to the Tokyo club poured in from Lions all over the world. A few months later at the 1952 International Convention in Mexico City, Elbert, by then Lion’s new international president, told the entire Lions organization about the establishment of the Japanese club and the emotional charter ceremony when the Japanese and Filipinos came together.
“Filipinos should detest and hate us,” Ishikawa said, according to Elbert. “But then, from these same Filipinos came an invitation for us to join Lions Clubs International.”
When it comes to encouraging peace and international understanding, a welcoming spirit of Lions’ friendship can build bridges in the most unlikely places.
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