What seemed like routine flood warnings to the community of Rapid City, South Dakota, USA, soon turned into ravaging floods that took the lives of more than 200 people, left more than 5,000 people homeless, and created more than US$100 million in property damage. Local Lions did what would soon become our legacy, being among the first to arrive with relief. This event also marked the first grant ever awarded by Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), US$5,000 to help the community rebuild after the catastrophic floods.
Since then, every day, LCIF works to fulfill its mission: “To support the efforts of Lions clubs and partners in serving communities locally and globally, giving hope and impacting lives through humanitarian service projects and grants.” Serving alongside many dedicated Lions, LCIF has made a significant impact on the world. In fact, I am proud to announce LCIF has awarded more than 13,000 grants totaling over US$1 billion since being founded in 1968.
We reached this milestone through our continuous efforts to support Lion-led initiatives in the areas of sight, youth, disaster relief, and other humanitarian initiatives. Every day, Lions are working to make a difference. Whether you are helping a grandparent see their grandchild for the first time, educating school children in your town, cleaning up a community after a flood, or working to end measles, you are making this world a better place.
As we prepare to celebrate LCIF’s 50th anniversary, look for messages about the impact that this US$1 billion has on the world. Watch this video to learn how LCIF is changing lives for students in the Philippines who are visually impaired.
Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada
Chairperson, Lions Clubs International Foundation
Nothing speaks louder to the world’s need for harmony than a child’s vision of peace—except for the collective expressions of millions of children.
Since 1988, Lions Clubs International has sponsored the annual Lions International Peace Poster Contest to encourage young people to express their perspectives on peace. Every year, as many as 400,000 children ages 11 to 13 from around the world participate in the contest. Sponsored by local clubs, the international competition reflects one of the key tenets of the Lions—to create and foster a spirit of understanding among the peoples of the world.
One international grand prize winner and 23 merit award winners are chosen each year for their unique and heartfelt visions of peace created from crayon, watercolor, pencil and other mediums. All winners receive a cash prize and certificate.
Mustapha El Tawokji from war-torn Beirut, Lebanon, won the first Peace Poster Contest in 1988-1989 by expressing the theme, “Peace Will Help Us Grow,” with a dove flying over a bed of roses. While he had never known peace, he expressed his vision of what peace would be like.
Grand prize winners have come from all over the world: Italy, Japan, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa and the United States, just to name a few. The artwork and creativity of every child who enters the contest is celebrated by its sponsoring Lions club. Each young artist’s work reflects his or her own experience, culture and worldview.
Visually impaired young people also have the opportunity to share their expressions of peace through the Lions International Essay Contest. Each year students ages 11 to 13 enter short essays on the same theme as the Peace Poster program for a chance to win a cash prize.
Both contests trace their roots back to a program in the 1960s called the Peace Essay Contest. To help celebrate LCI’s 50th anniversary in 1967, Lions asked young people ages 14 to 21 to submit an essay on peace. More than 1 million entries were received. Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower served as honorary chairman of the international panel that chose high school student A. Russell Wodell of Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada, as the winner for his essay titled, “Is Peace Attainable?”
“There is no easy road to peace,” wrote Wodell. “Only through evolution of his social, moral and intellectual values can man achieve true peace with himself.”
Young people from around the globe continue to offer Lions their expressions of peace in the hopes that one day the dream may come true.
At Lions Day with the United Nations on March 4, 2017, International President Chancellor Bob Corlew signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Madame Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
The MOU establishes a partnership between Lions Clubs International and UN Women to work towards gender equality through the promotion and inaction of UN Sustainable Goal Number 5 Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower women and girls.
Through joint programming, campaigning, advocacy, fundraising and more, UN Women and Lions worldwide can achieve our common objectives: strengthening and investing in young women’s leadership, ending all forms of violence against women and girls, and strengthening the partnership with adolescent boys and young men in gender equality.
Get started in your community!
Not every Lions Centennial Legacy Project has to be a monumental undertaking. The Taylorsville-Winfield Lions Club in Carroll County, Maryland, for example, decided to install a beautiful oak bench in the local park for their Legacy Project.
Past district governor Kent Eitemiller, secretary of the Taylorsville-Winfield Lions Club, explains how the bench came into being. “A few years ago, Carroll County developed our very first park, and the park director came and spoke at our club. He offered us the opportunity to add a Lions marker to the new park, and we unanimously agreed to provide a bench with our club name and logo on it.”
Nestled on more than 100 acres, Krimgold Park boasts several ball fields, open pavilions, a playground, four evergreen-lined ponds, a scenic walking path and a beaver that calls the park home. And now, there’s a comfortable, inviting Lions bench situated directly across from the playground where parents and grandparents can relax and enjoy spending time with their little ones.
“Installing a bench with our name on it was a way of letting residents know that our Lions club is here and is actively helping people,” said Linda Brady, club president. “We serve a lot of needs in the community, from hosting ice cream socials at assisted living facilities to providing eyeglasses, food and medical equipment. We recently helped a 20-year-old paraplegic man purchase a hospital bed that would accommodate his six foot frame.
“When you look around and see the hardships others are experiencing, it is a wonderful feeling to be able to give them a hand. Our park bench adds a lot to the community—and is an invitation for people to join us so that, together, we can help even more neighbors in need.”
A bench is a welcome addition to any setting, whether it’s a bustling city or serene suburb. Benches bring people together. Which is exactly what Lions clubs do the world around, every day. What could be a more lasting legacy than that?
Design a Legacy Project that fits your club and your community. Start planning yours today!
Grand Junction, Colorado, 1958. The once-vibrant downtown of a small American city. Sidewalks were cracked. Parking was impossible. The streets flooded after every rainfall.
Though home to only 20,000 people, Grand Junction was a hub for commerce and medical care for as many as 200,000 Coloradans. Situated in the clear air and high desert of Colorado, Grand Junction was notable because of the beautiful mountains and wilderness visible even from downtown. However, urban blight had crept into the quaint town.
Then came Operation Foresight, with the Lions leading the charge.
A committee of seven—more than half of whom were Lions or were married to a Lion—meticulously laid out a plan to modernize and beautify 27 blocks of downtown Grand Junction. Improvements to traffic lights, water and sewer systems, streets, and sidewalks were the foundation. Four years later, traffic accidents dropped to one-sixth of what they were before Operation Foresight was launched. Coats of paint spruced up fire hydrants and buildings, and a barren four-block stretch of Main Street was turned into a new shopping area, a pedestrian-friendly, picturesque center of commerce.
Lions have a history of cleaning up their communities in ways large and small. In 1937, the Lions of Kona, Hawaii, teamed with the Boy Scouts and the local fire department to safely dispose of 92 truckloads of waste that had accumulated on the outskirts of town. Four clubs in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, teamed up in 1964 to pick up litter along a five-mile stretch of highway. In 1985, the days of thick telephone directories, the Lions clubs of Portland, Oregon, organized annual programs to collect old phone books and recycle them instead of simply throwing them out.
Lions around the world work to clean up beaches, too: The Karachi Professionals Lions Club of Pakistan led 1,000 schoolchildren in cleaning a local beach in 1994. Additionally, the Lions of Petaling Jaya Metro in Malaysia, cleaned up roadside drains in 1995 in order to keep the homes of local residents from flooding. And Lions across southern India once planted hundreds of thousands of trees in a single day.
Community cleanup means more than beautifying. It’s also about repair, closure and new beginnings. After a devastating tornado struck Joplin, Missouri, in 2011, causing nearly US$3 billion in damages and laying waste to entire communities, the Lions were there, partnering with the First Response Team of America to clear damaged homes and recover anything they could.
Sandy Taylor of the Joplin Lions Club put it perfectly: “That’s just what Lions do. We serve.”
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