Touchstone Story #89–Lions Humanitarian Award

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Highly visible on the world stage or quietly working in remote places to serve others in need, the amazingly diverse group of men and women honored with the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) Humanitarian Award have one thing in common: Their work has made the world a better place.

Established in 1973, Lions’ highest honor has gone to Nobel Peace Prize winners (Mother Teresa in 1986 and Wangari Maathai in 2010) a sumo wrestler (Koki Taiho in 1982 for his efforts to promote volunteerism in Japan), heads of state (former  U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1996 and His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand in 1999), as well as performers (actor Danny Kaye in 1974 for his dedicated work with UNICEF and soprano Barbara Hendricks in 2001 for her efforts to support refugees and international peace).

The award often caps a long life of “substantial humanitarian accomplishment.” The phrase certainly applies to the remarkable 50-year career of Dr. M. C. Modi (1989), an ophthalmologist who performed more than 5 million eye surgeries at remote “eye camps” across south India. Villagers called him kannu kotta annu ‘the brother who gifted us sight.’

All Lions can submit nominations for the annual LCIF Humanitarian Award, which may account for the wide range of causes and recipients through the years.

Presentation of the award is always a high point of the International Convention. As part of the ceremony, LCIF provides the award winner’s charitable organization a grant of up to $250,000. Lions are inspired by stories of dedicated service that reflect the organization’s ideals and principles. And the honorees receive heartfelt encouragement and financial support to carry on their humanitarian work.

Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series.

Earthquake Relief

LCIF Awards Disaster Grants, March 2017

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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 March 2017, LCIF awarded 7 emergency grants totaling US$164,046. These grants are addressing immediate needs in:

Illinois, USA, District 1-BK
US$10,000 for tornado relief

Illinois, USA, District 1-CS
US$10,000 for tornado relief

Philippines, District 301-E
US$5,000 for earthquake relief

Missouri, USA, District 26-M1
US$10,000 for tornado relief

Kansas, USA, District 17-K
US$10,000 for wildfire relief

Missouri, USA, District 26-M5
US$10,000 for tornado relief

Brazil, District LC-5
US$10,000 for flood relief

The Republic of Madagascar, District 403-B2
US$10,000 for flood relief

Brazil, District LD-2
US$10,000 for windstorm relief

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

Morocco, District 416
US$10,000 for flood relief

Republic of South Africa, District 410-D
US$20,000 for community recovery

Peru, District H-3
US$10,000 for mudslide relief

Australia, District 201Q2
US$10,000 for cyclone relief

Tahiti, Undistricted
US$19,046 to equip schools in Tahiti


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

Donate to LCIF


Touchstone Story #8–Best Friends

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After trying unsuccessfully to enroll Dr. Glenn Wheeler in the only guide-dog school in the U.S., Charles A. Nutting, Donald P. Schuur and S.A. Dodge of the Detroit Uptown Lions Club took matters into their own hands. If their visually impaired friend and fellow Lion couldn’t attend a school in New Jersey to be paired with a guide dog, a training center and canine companion would have to come to him.

While dogs have assisted the blind for centuries, modern dog training methods trace their roots to Germany, when thousands of soldiers returned home from World War I blinded from poison gas. As training techniques spread to other countries, including the U.S., demand for these valuable dogs grew. With a well-trained guide dog and instruction, the visually impaired could better navigate an increasingly busy world. The dogs could warn their handlers of everything from oncoming traffic to obstacles in grocery store aisles.

To help their friend and others like him, Nutting, Schuur and Dodge led their club in establishing a guide dog training school close to home. In the fall of 1938, the initial program graduated four student-dog pairs, including Wheeler and a dog named Hilda. Searching for a name for their new venture, three Detroit-area Lions Clubs held a contest for the entire Lions organization. The Coulterville Lions Club of Illinois submitted the winning entry: Lions Leader.

On April 4, 1939, Lions incorporated the Lions Leader Dog Foundation as a nonprofit, rented a small farmhouse for the operation in Rochester Hills, Michigan, and graduated its first official class at a cost of US$600 per team. A year later, the school dropped the word “Lions” from its name because the project was not an official program of Lions Clubs International, and the group wanted to expand its base of donors.

Known today as Leader Dogs for the Blind, the school has graduated more than 14,500 guide dogs since opening its doors. But its impact has been far greater. As one of the first service dog schools, it helped to popularize the idea of service dogs and started a movement by Lions to support training programs. By the mid-20th century, Lions were supporting guide dogs schools in the U.S, Italy, France and Germany.

The school’s training methods have changed over the years, and its programs have expanded to help those with hearing loss, diabetes and other health issues. But, its purpose has not altered. The center exists to provide help, not to make a profit. Although clients were once required to pay up to US$150 for training, the service has been free since 1958. Clients also receive housing and transportation while at the center. Today the average cost of training a dog is US$37,000, and Lions clubs and other individual donors and organizations provide all funding.

What started as an idea to help one man has turned into an effort that has helped many more. Currently supporting training schools in Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Norway, South Africa and the U.S., Lions are helping thousands of visually impaired people to find new independence—and often a new best friend.

Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series.


5 Fun Facts about the Centennial Coin

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Purchase your coin today!

Our Centennial Silver Dollar Coin in the perfect way to celebrate Lions’ 100th birthday, and while many of you have seen the limited-edition coin in person or in our new video, here are 5 fun facts you might not know about the coin!

ONE: The process of creating the coin from concept to finished product took nearly 6 years!

TWO: Sandy Spring Lions Club (Maryland, USA) proposed the idea

THREE: The “Lions Clubs International Century of Service Commemorative Coin Act” was signed on October 5, 2012.

FOUR: The coin’s design pays homage to LCI founder Melvin Jones and the association’s international family of Lions.

FIVE: Coin sales offer an opportunity to improve the lives of people around the world, with US$10 authorized to be paid to LCIF for each coin sold – up to US$4 million.

Coins are only available throughout the 2017 calendar year. Purchase yours today!


Touchstone Story #99–Trading

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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.


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