“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” said Lions Club District Governor Ann Sanders of District 8 L in Louisiana, “and I never want to see it again.”
Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in American history, and one of its deadliest hurricanes. Several hours north of New Orleans, Louisiana, District 8 L was largely untouched by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the Category 5 hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005, but evacuees from hard-hit areas came to Sanders’ district because there was nothing left of their homes.
“People came here with only the clothes on their back,” Sanders said. “We [had] babies who needed diapers and food.”
The Lions from 8 L collected several thousand dollars to help the evacuees. Clubs across the United States sprang to action. Lions in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida staffed shelters, collected donations and gave out food and supplies. Clubs near and far sent donations, and Lions from Maine coordinated the delivery of enough food, clothing and medical supplies to fill two 18-wheelers. The Lions Clubs International Foundation gave a US$200,000 Major Catastrophe Grant to meet immediate needs of people displaced by the storm, as well as an additional US$10,000 in emergency vouchers for food, water and medicine.
LCIF also mobilized US$5.1 million from Lions around the world to fund projects in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama.
But those are just the numbers. While New Orleans got the most media coverage, other areas of the Gulf Coast also struggled to recover. Dick Cottrill of the Ruidoso Valley Noon Lions Club in, New Mexico suggested “adopting” the Diamondhead, Mississippi, club in their time of need. The motion was passed unanimously. Cottrill worked with Diamondhead Lions Club President Ted McCabe, and they agreed that the two clubs’ top priority would be to make the Bay Waveland Elementary School library functional again.
The school was still standing after the storm, but the library had been wiped out. Students were attending classes in FEMA trailers. The Ruidoso club raised more than $1,500 to replace K-3 books. Cottrill recruited Teri Hardiman, a teacher at Nob Hill School in Ruidoso, and collected books, teaching materials and donations for Bay Waveland Elementary.
In fact, they collected so many donations that they had a new problem: how to get them to Mississippi.
Four members of the Ruidoso club took a straightforward approach: They loaded up a truck and drove more than 1,100 miles to Diamondhead.
One of the traveling Lions, Bryan McCool, remembers arriving with computers, books and school supplies and being met by the Diamondhead Lions they’d been working with from afar.
“An elderly gentleman who came up during the unloading process, introduced himself and gave us a big hug,” McCool said. “He said, ‘Thank God for folks like you all. Your kindness and caring will help us make it through this terrible time.’
“The folks in Diamondhead were some of the nicest we have ever met. Their strength and positive attitude in such a time of strife were extraordinary. It was an honor to serve with such a great group of people.”
In the wake of one of the worst disasters in American history, the Lions were cutting through red tape and providing help where it was needed most.
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!
Natural disasters can strike anywhere, at any time. And when they do, Lions can count on disaster relief grants from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) to help them meet immediate needs within their communities.
On the warm, peaceful afternoon of Sunday, July 16, 2017, a wildfire broke out in Mariposa County, California, USA. Nearly 5,000 people were evacuated from their homes as the fire consumed nearly 80,000 acres. As of today, the fire has been burning for 10 days and is now 65 percent contained. Some evacuations orders have been lifted, but not all.
Local Lions could not simply stand by and watch. They sprang to action immediately and secured a US$10,000 Emergency grant from LCIF. The Lions of District 4-A1 are using this grant to serve meals to those displaced by the fire. Members of the Sonora Lions Club helped the American Red Cross to set up a kitchen at a shelter in Sonora, California, and are shopping for, purchasing, preparing and serving three meals to more than 1,500 people every day. Way to go, Lions!
The Essendon Lions Club in Essendon, Australia, had the land.
The Coburg Lions Club in Coburg, Australia, had the money.
They came together with a vision: to build a caring community for elderly people in need.
Lionsville was founded in 1966, built on “crown land” owned by the government but under the management of the Essendon club. It began with a modest eight units, each one housing a single occupant. But within three years, the success of Lionsville attracted government grants, allowing the community to expand to 39 buildings.
A chance encounter between an Australian Lion and a friendly stranger in Canada led to Lionsville’s further expansion. The Australian Lion was the victim of a pickpocket while vacationing, and the Canadian loaned him some cash. The stranger asked about the Lions Clubs International pin on his lapel, and he was so impressed with the Lions philosophy of service that he took his gift one giant leap forward: the stranger sent a $20,000 donation to Lionsville to establish a recreation hall, to be called Ruthville in honor of the stranger’s late wife.
Lionsville has continued to grow. Today, it consists of 84 units, a lakefront cycling and walking path and a full schedule of activities. The Essendon and Coburg Lions continue to volunteer at Lionsville, and visitors from as far as Japan have come to take note of how Lionsville serves its residents.
“We’ve been able to develop from small beginnings to a project that really does deserve worldwide recognition,” said Lion Neil Baudenette, former secretary of Lionsville. “We stepped into and filled a gap that was very visible—and nobody seemed to be trying to fill it.”
Care for the elderly is a priority for Lions clubs around the world. Offering assistance with care and dignity is an honor and a privilege among the many services Lions provide.
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!
Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) provides support for preventing avoidable blindness and restoring sight for people around the world. With a focus on building comprehensive and sustainable eye care systems, SightFirst provides funding for projects that deliver eye care services, build or strengthen eye care facilities, train professionals and build awareness about eye health in underserved communities.
The Lions of District 201-Q4 in Australia, in partnership with the Lions Club of Timor-Leste and the East Timor Eye Program, received a SightFirst grant for US$465,512 to help develop the local eye care system in Timor-Leste.
As part of this project, 3 trainees who were Senior Registrars completed an 18-month training program in the capital city of Dili and earned their Post Graduate Diploma of Ophthalmology. The graduation of Dr. Bernadete, Dr. Julia and Dr. Valerio brings the total number of ophthalmologists in Timor-Leste to 4, dramatically increasing possible access to eye care for the people living on the island.
SightFirst support to Timor-Leste is ongoing with a second grant for US$600,000. Human resource training is also a focus of this project, which aims to further develop the eye care system in order to ensure sustainability by 2019.
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