Glittering squares of gold on a lapel, shaped like lions’ heads or in the outlines of states. These emblems are colorful reminders of past accomplishments, international conventions or new friends.
Lions Clubs International pins come in all shapes and sizes today, but they were introduced in the late 1940s as disposable plastic parade giveaways. Those early emblems, called friendship pins, are now highly sought after by pin collectors and traders.
Trying to count up all of the different pins that have been produced over the intervening decades “is like trying to count grains of sand on a beach,” said Verle Malik of the Winchester Host Lions Club of Virginia. Verle publishes a series of handbooks cataloging the different kinds of pins, one of several catalogs produced by clubs and Lions around the world. Volume One of Verle’s handbook included life-size images of pins from every state and multiple district, and Volume Two featured specialty pins: prestige, mini, medallion, charm, stickpins, Lioness, Leo and variations on pins issued by states and multiple districts. Volume Three included international pins.
“These are friendship pins,” said Verle. “They were initially made to help you remember the person that gave it to you. You exchange them everywhere you go and pass them out to everyone you visit. Once you accumulate a few of them—the pin traders will appear.”
The biggest place to trade pins is the annual International Convention, but for Lions who can’t make it—or for Lions who want more opportunities to trade—there several large pin-swapping gatherings held throughout the year in Virginia; Pennsylvania; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Moline, Illinois. Smaller local swaps also occur regularly.
Pin swapping is a friendly affair, but there’s a strategy involved. “You’ve got to have pins to trade,” said Bob Showers, longtime pin swapper from the Packwaukee Lions Club in Wisconsin. “If you go down there with mediocre pins, you’re not going to get very many.”
There are a number of official pin trading clubs within Lions. According to Bill Smith, the founding president of the Pin Traders Club of Virginia, they’re eager to bring in new collectors. “When we find out a guy’s a new pin trader, he leaves [the swap] with far more pins than he came in with. We’ll give him a handful of pins. We’re just trying to hook him.”
Lions collect and trade more than pins. At the 1951 international convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Lions International Stamp Club was officially chartered. Peter Keller, founder of the LISC and director of the American Stamp Dealers Association, authored a regular stamp collecting column in LION Magazine, calling stamp collecting “the King of Hobbies and the Hobby of Kings.”
Within a year, the LISC had members from five countries, collecting and trading rare or interesting stamps of all kinds. Since 1940, countries such as Cuba, the Philippines and Nicaragua have issued commemorative stamps featuring the Lions Clubs International emblem and past international presidents like Finis Davis of Louisville, Kentucky, who served from 1960-61, and Clarence Sturm from Manawa, Wisconsin, who served from 1959-60.
As with anything that Lions are involved in, fun and fellowship leads to service. In 2008, the Lions International Trading Pin Club led a fundraising effort among fellow pin traders and presented a check for US$100,000 to Campaign SightFirst II at the International Convention in Minneapolis the following year.
Trading pins and stamps is a hobby that’s entertaining and a celebration of Lions’ dedication to service. “I don’t golf, I don’t bowl,” said Bill Smith. “
Pins are my passion. And I’m not unique in that.”
Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series.
In recent days, heavy rains in Colombia precipitated a massive mudslide in Putymayo Province in the southwestern portion of the country. Over 200 people are reported dead and many are still missing. In addition to loss of life, scores of people have been left homeless.
Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) has approved an emergency catastrophe grant of US$100,000 to allow local Lions to provide much needed first-response assistance of food, water, blankets and other supplies.
As this tragedy plays out in Colombia, our attention is also focused on areas of East Africa, where drought conditions are threatening a famine of epic proportions. LCIF, along with Lions in Kenya, Sweden and other countries, are working to provide aid to as many people as possible there.
Our centennial motto, “Where There’s A Need, There’s A Lion,” could not be more appropriate than in times of natural disasters when local Lions on the ground in disaster areas are able to put actions plans in place to provide much needed first response supplies of food, water, temporary shelter, and clothing.
Last month, LCIF surpassed the US$ 1 billion mark in grant giving. This was made possible because of your generosity. LCIF grants have changed the lives of millions of people. As always, your generous donations to LCIF enable us to respond swiftly wherever and whenever the need exists.
I know you join me in keeping all the victims of these latest natural disasters in your thoughts and prayers.
Lions Clubs International
The United Nations (UN) has made its first declaration of famine since 2011. A formal famine declaration means that people have already died of hunger. The combination of drought, insecurity and economic instability means that millions of people in Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia and other countries could face drastic food shortages by May 2017.
Rivers and wells have dried up. Livestock are dying and food prices are skyrocketing. Children are being forced to drop out of school and entire families are
migrating in search of food and water. Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) and local Lions are working to offer aid to as many people as possible. The Lions of Multiple District 101 in Sweden teamed up with Kenyan Lions of District 411-A recently to provide supplies to 600 families affected by the famine.
You can help support relief efforts in East Africa by making a donation to LCIF’s disaster fund. Be sure to note “East Africa Famine” to designate your donation for this disaster. Donations made to LCIF’s disaster fund are eligible for Melvin Jones Fellowship credit.
The Mount Cheam Lions Club believes that there is nothing more precious than the gift of sight. Their Centennial Legacy Project was inspired by Helen Keller’s plea to Lions in 1925 to become Knights of the Blind.
Two thousand volunteer hours and 11 months later, the club’s project was completed in January 2017. These Lions raised a whopping $600,000 for cataract surgical equipment for the Eye Centre at Chilliwack General Hospital in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada.
“Sight is a major program with Lions Clubs International worldwide and we wanted to celebrate the Centennial with a lasting legacy in our community,” said Dave Mackintosh, chair of the club’s Centennial Legacy Project. “There was a pressing need to upgrade the equipment in this area at our local hospital and we jumped at the chance to help.”
Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40, and are the principal cause of blindness in the world, according to Prevent Blindness America (PBA).
The Mount Cheam Lions Club partnered with the Steller’s Jay Lions Club on the project, and members gave more than 19 presentations to area service clubs, the city council and the Regional Hospital District. This not only helped raise a lot of money, it also spread the word about their club and the fantastic work that Lions do worldwide. They also received a matching grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF).
Patients will now enjoy the latest technology when they have their cataract surgeries at the Eye Centre. The new equipment also ensures safer and faster recoveries. More than 5,300 surgeries are done annually at the center.
The health authority is naming the Eye Centre the “Mount Cheam Lions Club Eye Center,” the two procedure rooms will be called “Steller’s Jay Lions Club Procedure Room 1 & 2,” and the preparation area will be the “Lions Clubs International Foundation Preparation Area.”
The club has planned a celebration event for its Legacy Project on April 25, 2017 in Chilliwack. Guests will include a host of Lions dignitaries from far and wide.
All around the world, Lions are working to preserve the precious gift of sight.
To promote peace and understanding, why not start with some of the world’s younger citizens?
This was the mindset of Lions from the Kobe East Lions Club in Japan and Multiple District 4 in California and Nevada when they began considering hosting an international youth exchange program during summer vacations. Students could stay with local Lions and their families, learn about a new culture, make new friends and explore a different part of the world.
In 1960, nine students from Japan headed to California, while 13 young Californians left for an adventure across the Pacific in Japan. It didn’t take long for the broader Lions organization to catch wind of the successful enterprise. Lions Clubs International formally adopted the Lions Youth Exchange Program in 1961, later renamed Lions Youth Camps and Exchange program, taking the Lions mission to foster peace and understanding to a new level.
The program’s first official participant was 16-year-old Lorenzo Calabrese, sponsored by the Lions Club in Bari, Italy. Lion Sam Verdi and his family in Detroit, Michigan, USA, hosted Calabrese. By the end of the year, 130 other exchanges had taken place worldwide.
While students usually traveled alone to their host homes, so many students wanted to join the program in the late 1960s that Lions occasionally chartered planes to help facilitate travel. At one point, 300 students from Finland, Sweden and France gathered on a Lions charter plane to New York, where they were met by Lions and sent on to locations across the United States.
Lions in some countries took a different route to promoting cultural exchanges. They hosted youth camps to help young people exchange ideas and unite in shared experiences. At a 1965 camp in Montgomery, Alabama, USA, 40 participants from India, Finland, Denmark, Canada, the United States, Japan and Sweden became such good friends that they hoped to meet 10 years later at the 1975 Lions Clubs International Convention, which turned out to be Dallas, Texas, USA.
As of 2015, Lions operated youth camps in 39 countries, from Estonia to Israel, Tunisia to Mexico, Sri Lanka to Norway. While the Lions Youth Camps and Exchange program has allowed Lions to help many participants develop a global mindset, the program’s impact goes far beyond cultural understanding.
After Stephanie Theyssen, a shy, reserved young woman from Belgium, attended a Lions camp in Hawaii in 2011, she returned home with the intention to practice “ohana,” the Hawaiian word for cooperating and treating everyone as an extended member of the family. “This youth camp changed my life in many different ways,” said Theyssen. “[It] gave me balance: spiritual, cultural, independence, confidence.”
More than 1,000 students on average participate in the program each year. From expanding horizons to altering worldviews, when young people engage with other nationalities and cultures through Lions Clubs International, their lives are forever changed for good.
Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series.
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