Sep
12

A Rising Tide Lifts all Kayaks

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Leaser Lake in eastern Pennsylvania, 45-feet deep before unrelenting seepage, eventually became a kind of ghost lake. By 2001, the 120-acre, man-made lake was an eerie landscape of weeds, small trees and even pieces of an old farm that was swallowed when the lake was filled in the 1960s. Attempts to fix the seepage failed, and the surrounding park was mothballed.

The Leaser Lake Heritage Foundation (LLHF) labored for years to get several government entities to supply nearly $5 million—enough to repair the dam and refill the lake. The repairs were completed in 2015.

Bringing life back to the park became much more than just filling the lake with water. LLHF had big dreams for Leaser Lake: it hoped to provide recreation opportunities to those who otherwise found them just out of reach. It wanted individuals with limited mobility to be able to explore lakeside paths, fish from a floating dock or even slip into a kayak for a paddle on the water. But those were expensive dreams.

Lion Tom Kerr, a foundation board member, presented a plan to raise the money to fellow Lions who shared his affinity for Leaser Lake. The lake is a source of pride for locals in the sleepy but picturesque farmland.

The plan called for a park fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Its trails, picnic tables, toilets and parking would be accessible to those with disabilities. The Kempton Lions Club committed to raising money to fund a fishing pier and a kayak launcher. The LLHF committed to several other pieces of the puzzle.

The idea of facilitating positive, unique outdoor experiences for people with limited mobility energized the Lions. There was nothing like this within 100 miles of Kempton.

Over two years, the Kempton Lions, aided by the neighboring Ontelaunee Lions Club, generated more than $7,000 through fundraising. Meanwhile, Kerr applied for grants from the Lions of Pennsylvania Foundation and Lions Clubs International Foundation, garnering US$49,500—enough to pay for the fishing pier and launcher.

The Lions and LLHF worked with a local manufacturer and an engaged group of local adaptive kayakers. The athletes tested prototypes at the manufacturer’s facility and at the lake.

“In the process of developing the boat launcher, I had a greater understanding of the limitations of a wheelchairbound person, as well as many things an able-bodied person takes for granted,” admits Kerr. “Understanding the impact this project has on the lives of those with mobility issues makes this project very gratifying.”

The project was dedicated in October 2015. During the inauguration ceremony, Mike White, who has spina bifida, rolled his wheelchair down the gangway with ease and paddled off into the open water. “It is liberating. One of the nicest feelings is to look and feel like everybody else,” White says.

Sporting his yellow vest, Kerr beamed with pride at what Lions achieved. “I hope this project, done by a small group of people, can serve as a testament to other small clubs that they, too, can do big projects.”

This story originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of LION Magazine.

Sep
8

Touchstone Story: Reading Action Program

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Lions have taken up the challenge of promoting reading worldwide.

It is important work, aimed at helping lift millions of people out of hardship. Learning to read lets people acquire the skills and knowledge they need “to overcome poverty, disease and other social ills,” said Past International President Wayne A. Madden, who served from 2012 to 2013. Literacy, he said, is “a gift Lions can give to children and adults around the world.”

Globally, nearly 1 billion adults cannot read and write. The issue isn’t just a challenge for developing regions, either. In the United States, 21 million people can’t read, and millions more have reading skills so limited that they have difficulty with common tasks such as reading signs or workplace instructions.

The Reading Action Program, launched in 2012, is a 10-year Lions commitment to focus on strengthening global literacy. The program calls for Lions to organize service projects and activities that underscore the importance of reading.

Lions clubs around the world have responded with a broad variety of community-based, person-to-person efforts. Some have helped develop after-school reading programs. Others have volunteered to read to children at local libraries, work as reading tutors or donate books and computers. Whatever the project, Lions say the work is deeply satisfying.

“I get tears in my eyes when I see these children improving their reading on a daily basis. It’s worth my time indeed,” said Jean-Marie Willem, a member of the Bruxelles Saint Hubert Lions Club in Belgium, which created an after-hours school reading program staffed by Lion volunteers.

In Hawaii, the West Kauai Lions Club holds bingo games for kids. The prize? A book. “It’s a good project, because it promotes reading,” said club member Charles Ortiz.

The Nagoya West Lions Club in Japan teamed up with the Makati Golden Lions of metropolitan Manila to build a library for children in the Philippines, then donated new computers and educational software. “Computers are necessary nowadays,” said Shinzo Suzuki, a member of the Nagoya West Club. “So I like (young people) to study or get more knowledge about computer use.”

Many reading efforts tie in with Lions’ longstanding efforts to help people with visual impairments. Leos and Lions from Multiple District 107 in Finland recorded stories, fairy tales and poems, then published the recordings online so children with visual impairments could listen.

The Montclare Elmwood Park Lions Club in suburban Chicago, Illinois, USA, held a reading carnival for more than 100 children, treating them to story time, a puppet theater, face painting, crafts, balloon twisting and snacks.

To increase the literacy program’s impact, Lions have joined forces with other organizations that have the same goal, including Reading is Fundamental, the largest children’s literacy nonprofit organization in the U.S. And at the 2012 International Convention in Busan, South Korea, Lions announced a partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s global literacy campaign, saying USAID and Lions both believe that “literacy is critical to the future of all children.”

Read the entire collection of Touchstone Stories at Lions100.org!

Sep
8

LCIF Awards 23 Emergency Grants in August 2016

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Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) offers a variety of funding options to support various stages for disaster relief operations, including Disaster Preparedness, Emergency, Community Recovery and Major Catastrophe Grants.

For districts impacted by a natural disaster that has affected at least 100 people, including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and tsunamis, Emergency grants provide up to US$10,000. Lions district governors may apply for disaster relief funds to help meet immediate needs such as food, water, clothing and medical supplies. LCIF typically awards more than US$2 million in Emergency Grant funding each year.

In August 2016, LCIF awarded 23 emergency grants totaling US$190,000. These grants are addressing immediate needs in:

Rep of Bangladesh, District 315-A2
US$5,000 for flood relief

Nepal, District 325-B1
US$5,000 for flood relief

Rep of Bangladesh, District 315-A1
US$5,000 for flood relief

California, USA, District 4-C6
US$10,000 for wildfire relief

Rep of South Africa, District 410-B
US$10,000 for tornado relief

India, District 323-D2
US$5,000 for flood relief

India, District 323-F2
US$5,000 for flood relief

Macedonia (FYROM), District 132
US$10,000 for flood relief

Philippines, District 301-C
US$5,000 for typhoon reliefLions in Italy help after earthquake

Iowa, USA, District 9-NE
US$10,000 for tornado relief

Maryland, USA, District 22-A
US$10,000 for flood relief

Mexico, District B-7
US$10,000 for landslide relief

India, District 321-B1
US$5,000 for flood relief

California, USA, District 4-C2
US$10,000 for wildfire relief

Portugal, District 115-CS

US$10,000 for wildfire relief

Louisiana, USA, District 8-N
US$10,000 for flood relief

India, District 321-E
US$5,000 for flood relief

Peru, District H-2
US$10,000 for earthquake relief

Indiana, USA, District 25-D
US$10,000 for tornado relief

Louisiana, USA, District 8 -O
US$10,000 for flood relief

Thailand, District 310-A1
US$10,000 for flood relief

Italy, District 108-L
US$10,000 for earthquake relief

Pennsylvania, USA, District 14-M
US$10,000 for flood relief

Please consider making a donation to LCIF’s disaster fund today.

Donate to LCIF

Chairperson Yamada presenting an MJF pin to Lions in Brazil
Sep
6

Message from the Chairperson: Lions and LCIF are United in Service

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Dear Lions,

Did you know that since its founding in 1968, our Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) has given out more than US$950 million in grants? That is an incredible amount of money. What is even more incredible is that we have improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people throughout the world.

We could not have done that without you! Did you also know that LCIF relies entirely upon donations from Lions and friends? Yet, only six percent of Lions make an individual donation to LCIF each year. You read that correctly: only six percent of Lions give an individual gift to LCIF. To those who have already made a donation this year, thank you.

If every Lion gave only US$100 this year, we could raise US$140 million. A single US$100 donation can provide measles vaccinations for 100 children, a week’s worth of food for a family after a disaster, life skills training for a classroom of students through Lions Quest, or a loan to an entrepreneur whose business will support an entire family. That donation can, in fact, change someone’s life.

For clubs who donate as little as US$50 per member, LCIF will award special Club Giving Banner Patches. Please encourage every member of your club to support LCIF this year. Help us to help those who need us most.

Can I count on you to demonstrate your commitment to the LCIF mission?

Sincerely,

Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada
Chairperson, Lions Clubs International Foundation

Read the rest of the LCIF newsletter here

Sep
2

Touchstone Story: Humanitarian Missions

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We Serve is the Lions Clubs’ motto, and the truth behind those words can be seen whenever Lions embark on a humanitarian mission to help those in need.

One of the Lions’ “vision missions” was held in Ensenada, Mexico, in 2009. Eighty miles south of San Diego, California, Ensenada is a tourist destination and a cruise ship port, but many of the locals have never had an eye exam. Lions clubs in the United States and Mexico teamed up to change that.

“Missions are rewarding because it’s hands-on service,” said Bill Iannacone of the Walnut Creek Host Lions Club of California. About 700,000 pairs of eyeglasses were collected in California, then shipped across the border, where Ensenada Lions received them, set up a location for the mission event and publicized it locally.

Over the course of two days, more than 800 locals who couldn’t afford health care received eye exams, free eyeglasses and even eye drops to treat allergies and conjunctivitis from four doctors, six technicians and dozens of Lions.

Elena Galindo and her young son both received glasses. “Not only will this help my family financially, but I was able to see the smile on my son’s face, and he was able to see better,” she said.

Missions around the world offer the chance for clubs in neighboring countries to work together. Club members travel together, work together and meet new friends. As Sue Topf of the Clermont Lions Club in Indianapolis, Indiana, said, “These mission change your life. Last trip we fit a 100-year-old man with his first pair of glasses. He had walked down from the mountain in his Sunday best.”

Vision missions are a major part of the Lions’ humanitarian work, but that’s only one way of serving. The year 2015 marked the 40th anniversary of an annual medical, dental and ophthalmic mission jointly organized by Lions clubs in Japan and the Philippines, providing teeth cleaning, information on oral hygiene, and vision and medical screenings to more than 1,000 people in the Philippines. Other clubs team up for one-time missions, such as the Roma Castel Sant’Angelo Lions Club of Italy, which helped build a well and provided hygiene training to a village in Benin, Africa; and the Mijas Lions Club of Spain, which equipped two Bolivian schools with furniture and school supplies.

“I get more out of it than I give,” said Jim Ashcraft of the San Diego Missions Lions Club, who was on hand in Ensenada. That feeling of service shows that these gestures, both large and small, can have a big impact—and not just for the recipients.

Read the entire collection of Touchstone Stories at Lions100.org!

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