When Lion Bill Haslett and his wife, Linda, stood on Omaha Beach on a recent trip to Normandy, France, they could almost hear the echoes of her father’s footsteps as he stormed ashore with thousands of other Allied troops on June 6, 1944. He was part of the D-Day invasion of northern France to overtake German-occupied Western Europe in World War II.
James Mooneyhan, Linda’s father, was a World War II veteran as well as a lifelong Lion. She and Lion Bill retraced his steps on this European battlefield, and stood in the very place where he had fought against Adolf Hitler’s reign of terror. This historic trek gave birth to the idea of creating a monument to honor the 36 previously unrecognized area servicemen who were casualties of the war. More than 1 million United States soldiers died during World War II.
Upon his return from Europe, Lion Bill worked tirelessly to sell the idea of building a memorial to honor the servicemen who died in World War II to the Winnsboro Lions Club. The members realized that nothing had ever been done before to pay homage to these brave men from Fairfield County, South Carolina, who had made the ultimate sacrifice. It was unanimously agreed upon to undertake this special project.
Hundreds of commemorative brick pavers that would surround the monument were sold, and more than $45,000 was raised from sales and donors. When the Fairfield County World War II Memorial was dedicated on May 31, 2015, more than 500 people attended the event. Men and women, young and old, veterans of this war and others, looked on in reverent silence as the impressive granite monument was unveiled. A majestic bronze eagle with outstretched wings perched atop the memorial, appearing ready to take flight. It was a day that the community will not soon forget.
“This project was a pivotal event in our community,” said Paul Dove, District Governor of 32 D and president of the Winnsboro Lions Club when the Legacy Project was completed. “The monument honors those who lost their lives in World War II, but it’s also a memorial so that we may never forget that freedom isn’t free. There’s a price tag on freedom: it is the blood of our soldiers who sacrificed their lives so that we may live free from the tyranny of dictators.”
What will your Lions club legacy be? Start planning your Legacy Project today!
When a devastating earthquake struck Haiti in January of 2010, Lions mobilized fast. Through the newly formed Lions Hope for Haiti, members around the world contributed their organizing skills and fundraising savvy to rush desperately needed emergency supplies to the Caribbean nation.
Within hours of the quake, staff at Lions Clubs International Foundation headquarters were fielding calls from Lions asking how they could help. Containers of clothes, fresh water and medicine from Lions in the neighboring Dominican Republic were among the very first waves of humanitarian aid to arrive.
Lions Clubs International Foundation Chairperson Al Brandel and his wife Dr. Maureen Murphy headed a relief team of 40 Lions, arriving in Haiti about a week after the earthquake to distribute emergency supplies
“It brought tears to our eyes to witness the despair of the people,” Brandel said, “but Lions are committed to meeting their needs in the days and years ahead.”
The death toll in Haiti eventually topped 230,000, with 300,000 injured and more than a million people homeless. All around the globe, Lions began raising millions of dollars to fund the relief effort.
Through their Swedish Lions tent program, Lions provided 200 tents to shelter the displaced. In British Columbia, Canada, Lions donned their vests and set up collection sites in shopping malls and restaurants, raising US$126,000 for Haiti relief. In Bedford, New Hampshire, USA, Lions began collecting canes, crutches and wheelchairs to help injured Haitians. Members of the Aventura North Miami Beach Lions Club in Florida, USA, raised money for Haiti by collecting and recycling used ink cartridges and cell phones.
Even as Lions raced to help ease the immediate suffering caused by the quake, the association committed to solving long-term infrastructure problems that plague Haiti. The Lions of Belgium, along with Protos, a Belgian nongovernmental organization, supported an irrigation and agriculture project to increase food security and improve sanitation in the Belladere region of Haiti.
Over the next months, LCIF mobilized US$6 million to support earthquake relief. As time passed, Lions focused on reconstruction. The Lions of Germany and the German nongovernmental organization HELP built 600 homes for families living in tent cities. Lions constructed a national nursing school as a temporary site to train new nursing personnel until a permanent site could be constructed. At the Montfort Institute for the Deaf, funding from Lions in the United Kingdom and Ireland supported construction of a vocational training building. And Lions continue to address the need for clean water by installing water wells and pumps throughout five communities.
Haitians “thanked me many times for what the Lions of the world are doing to help them,” said Past International Director Eugenio Roman Jr. of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, who was among the first LCIF team to arrive in the aftermath of the disaster. “But we are there to help. That’s what Lions clubs and LCIF do.”
Located in the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA, attracts over 11 million visitors per year. Known for its quaint charm and its synchronous fireflies, it’s no wonder why tourists flock to the area.
In late November 2016, wildfires burned through areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and destroyed homes and other properties in Gatlinburg and nearby Pigeon Forge. The fires killed 14 people, injured more than 130 people, and damaged or destroyed 1,684 structures.
With many families losing everything they had, help was desperately needed. Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) awarded a US$10,000 grant to the Lions of District 12-N in Tennessee to be used in providing relief in the area affected by the wildfires.
Lions Clubs of East Tennessee pulled together to organize relief for those who were affected by the fires. On December 10, 2016, Lions gathered at a local Walmart to provide emergency shopping to 50 families in need. The families were able to get necessary food, water, and clothing. Since then, the Lions Clubs of East Tennessee have raised over US$50,000 to help the victims of the Gatlinburg-area wildfires.
Check out this video of Lions in action!
In 1988, Lions Clubs International created the Peace Poster Contest as a way for young people to creatively express their visions of peace and allow them to share these visions with the world.
Over the last 30 years Lions clubs around the world have sponsored Peace Poster contests and helped promote peace and change lives. Each year one grand prize winner is chosen from an average of 600,000 entries! The grand prize winner receives a trip to an award ceremony where they receive a cash award of US$5,000 and an award. For some participants this award is truly life-changing.
Along with the grand prize winner, 23 merit award winners each receive a cash award of US$500 and a certificate of achievement. All 24 of the finalists have their artwork displayed at our International Convention. Each year when Lions gather from around the world they are able to see the talent, idealism and optimism of the young artists.
Our winners have come from all over the world. While the participants don’t all speak the same language, their art works show they all have a beautiful understanding of what peace looks like.
This year as we celebrate 30 years of promoting peace, we encourage all Lions clubs to sponsor a Peace Poster contest for the youth in their area. Learn more on the website.
When International President Sten Akestam wanted to help raise awareness about diabetes, he turned to one of the most influential women in the world for help: Eppie Lederer, better known as advice columnist Ann Landers.
For decades, her syndicated column, “Ask Ann Landers,” helped readers tackle every human problem imaginable. Millions flipped through their newspapers each morning to read Landers’ thoughts on parent-child relationships, disputes with neighbors, moral quandaries, health problems and the feelings of the lovelorn. If Lions could get a letter about diabetes printed in Landers’ column, they could quickly reach a wide audience with important information.
Akestam, who served as international president from 1986 to 1987, wrote to Landers, explaining the risk factors, warning signs and consequences of diabetes—one of the leading causes of vision loss in adults in industrialized counties. “Please print this letter,” he wrote. “Millions of people need to see it, and if it runs in your column, they will.”
Akestam explained that Lions worldwide were involved with diabetes screening. Readers who wanted additional information about the disease or screenings could call their local Lions club or Lions Clubs International headquarters.
In January 1987, Akestam’s wish was granted. His letter and Landers’ response appeared in the more than 1,100 newspapers carrying her column. “I’m delighted to print it,” Landers wrote. “It will save lives. I hope you have a good number of trunks on that phone and many volunteers who are willing to answer it.”
Her advice to Akestam was spot-on. Lions headquarters received more than 1,000 phone calls asking for more information. Public interest was so high that headquarters printed thousands of brochures on diabetes and made them available to clubs.
Lions’ efforts to help control and treat diabetes and related complications, such as sight loss, have never ceased. Clubs host diabetes screenings in their communities, participate in annual events for diabetes awareness and raise funds for research and treatment. And with the number of people living with the disease estimated to grow to 592 million by 2035, the work of Lions will continue to be a vital part of preventing and treating diabetes.
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