Touchstone Story #75–The Gift of Hearing

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Lions around the world are working to raise awareness, bring medical care and provide education to help prevent hearing loss. More than 275 million people worldwide are hearing-impaired or deaf, according to the World Health Organization.

Just as vision-related programs have been a key element of Lions Clubs International activities since before Helen Keller called on Lions in 1925 to carry out a “crusade against darkness,” Lions have also been prominent in the battle to help people with hearing impairments.

It’s an important fight. Keller, who was deaf as well as blind, understood the isolation that hearing impairments can impose.

“Blindness separates people from things,” she once said, but “deafness separates people from people.”

Lions formally identified hearing conservation as a major activity in the early 1970s. That effort gained momentum when Past International President Ralph A. Lynam, who served from 1978 to 1979, designated helping the hearing impaired as his major program.

In countries from India to the U.S., Lions have equipped special mobile screening units to screen infants for hearing problems, as early diagnosis is key to learning and socialization. These “hearing vans” go to shopping malls and crowded city neighborhoods.

Lions also offer special camps where children who are deaf can enjoy the outdoors while learning skills that help them to navigate a silent world. Some camps such as Camp Pacifica and the Lions Wilderness Camp for Deaf Children, which opened in California in 1979 and 1980 respectively, specialize in hosting children with hearing impairments. In addition, many of Lions’ summer camps for children who are disabled offer special sessions for children with hearing impairments.

Lions put their experience creating programs to improve sight and prevent blindness to work in creating programs to serve people with hearing loss. Just as Lions collect and refurbish used eyeglasses for distribution, they created the Hearing Aid Recycling Program in 2000 to refurbish and distribute hearing aids.

And just as guide dogs offer remarkable help to people who are blind or visually impaired, Lions help fund programs for dogs to guide people with hearing impairments. These hearing guide dogs are trained to respond to household sounds like a knock on the door, a smoke alarm or even a baby’s cry. “We’re all ears for the hearing impaired,” is the motto of the Lions’ hearing dog program in Australia, which trains its own dogs.

Because surgical interventions and equipment can be costly, Lions often provide financial assistance. But aid comes in other forms, too. Lions conduct public-awareness programs to educate their neighbors about protecting hearing and identifying hearing problems in youngsters. Sometimes, that guidance can be priceless.

In the U.S., at the Lions Hearing Center of Michigan in Detroit, Toni Cannon-Mitchell found counseling and free services for her son M.J. after learning he was deaf. Without the help of the Lions facility, which opened in 1999, M.J. wouldn’t have made the fine progress he has achieved “and he might not have the bright future he has now,” she said.

Discover the dynamic history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. They’re a great resource for promoting service at your club meetings!



Las Vegas Twin Lakes Lions Club Opens First Clinic for the Poor as Legacy Project

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Mother Teresa said that, at the end of life, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made and how many great things we have done. We will be judged by our simple acts of kindness: “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.” Mother Teresa was a Catholic nun who devoted her life to serving the poor.

Members of the Las Vegas Twin Lakes Lions Club have embraced her mission with their recent Legacy Project.

In 1980, Salve Vargas Edelman, the club’s charter president, came to America from the Philippines. “I grew up hearing that we had to help those in our own backyard,” she recalled. “Today, I see poor people in our area who don’t have access to healthcare. And it’s sad because this is America! That’s why I chartered this Lions club. We made it our mission to support the Twin Lakes Community Clinic to help the underserved, marginalized and indigent people in our community.”

Her club went to work organizing various fundraising events for the renovation of a vacant building, which the City of Las Vegas approved to operate as a medical clinic. The Lions held a bowling tournament and a silent auction, and hosted a Disco Fever event and health fair as some of their fundraising activities.

The Las Vegas Twin Lakes Lions renovated the building by changing the flooring from old carpeting to wood flooring, painting the inside of the building and creating separate rooms for each service being provided, in accordance with city code requirements. They received donations of tables and chairs, filing cabinets, decorations, a fireplace screen and assorted medical supplies and equipment.

Last year, the clinic launched a soft opening which was attended by several government officials, business and religious leaders, the media, and of course, Lions and their families and friends.

Today, the clinic provides a variety of preventive health and wellness services, such as screenings for vision, diabetes and hypertension, as well as education, awareness and information about health issues.

“We wanted to help build a healthy community and make the lives of the people we serve better,” Edelman added. “We have left a lasting Lions legacy in our area, one that will impact generations to come.”

What will your Lions club legacy be? This is the last year to celebrate the Centennial with a Legacy Project, so start planning yours today!


Touchstone Story–Traffic Safety

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The first thing you might see driving into a county or town that is home to a Lions club is our familiar seal, accompanied by the words drive safely.

For decades, Lions have been spreading the word about traffic safety. In 1961, LION Magazine featured an article titled “Death Wears No Belt” with photos of fatal car accidents to emphasize the necessity of seat belts. Sgt. Elmer Paul, an Indiana State Highway patrolman, undertook a private mission to analyze accident statistics, asking, “Why do some people walk away from crushing crashes—and others die in piddling fender bumps?” He pored over accident report forms and came to the conclusion that motorists who wore seat belts were much more likely to survive a crash. Paul became a self-proclaimed “seat belt missionary,” teaming with LION Magazine and the Lions Club Safety Committee to spread the word.

The following year in British Columbia, Canada, when efforts to make automobile seat belts mandatory stalled, the Victoria Lions Club took action. The club rented a booth at the local Agricultural and Industrial Fair and distributed car accident statistics—and, more importantly, took orders for seat belts and seat belt installation. On subsequent weekends, club members installed government-approved seat belts in more than 1,500 automobiles at an auto body repair shop owned by a club member.

Seat belts did become standard, but the push for traffic safety continued. In 1983, the Briscea Cidneo Lions Club in Italy created a public awareness project called Il Casco, or ”The Helmet,” that targeted young motorcyclists who resisted wearing protective headgear. Conferences, public debates and school presentations helped get the word out that “with il casco, you are a smash!”

Educating children and teenagers about traffic safety remained a top priority in 2013, when the Marmaris Lions Club and Marmaris New Century Lions Club in Turkey organized a live children’s entertainment show in which a series of characters such as fairies, doctors and police officers illustrate traffic safety in a fun and informative way.

In 2014, Lions from Rameswaram, India, took to the streets with more than 100 police and Ramanathaswamy Temple staff in a two-wheeler rally to raise awareness about bicycle safety on the island community. Lions distributed safety pamphlets and stressed the life-saving utility of helmets.

The trademark of so many Lions, across the globe and over the years, is one of simple awareness: Buckle your safety belt. Wear a helmet. Look both ways. The simplest safety measures can make the biggest difference.

Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. Don’t forget to share these stories with new members so they gain an understanding of Lions history!


Touchstone Story #94–The Lions Store

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Need a gavel or a gong for the weekly club meeting? Looking for golf balls, tees, towels, ball markers, shirts, sweaters and visors for that big fundraising tournament coming up? How about a cast aluminum grave marker to proclaim your Lions loyalty through the ages?

These are just a few of the 1,300 Lions-themed products available online or in the glossy, full-color pages of the Lions Club Supplies catalogue, better known as the Lions Store. And if a member can’t find something, a phone call or e-mail to the store’s member services staff can quickly fill the bill.

“Nothing is out of the ordinary,” said Nicolette Donofrio, longtime manager of the Club Supplies sales department at Lions Clubs International headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, USA. “If a Lion wants it, we’ll find it. We never turn down a sale.”

The Lions Store has been in business in various forms since Lions Clubs International was founded in 1917. Early issues of LION Magazine carried ads for club stationery and engraved printing plates to promote consistent use of the Lions emblem. Other ads featured products that showcased Lions’ pride, like desktop lion figurines and pen-and-ink sets.

According to Club Supplies sales department records, the first stand-alone catalogue appeared in print in the early 1930s and has been a time-tested vehicle for Lions product offerings ever since. Today the catalogue has a print run of 40,000 copies. The catalogues are mailed to nearly every Lions district and club around the world.

The online Lions Store opened in 1999 and has gone through several major upgrades to enhance Lions’ online shopping experience. The product mix is constantly changing. About 20 to 30 promising new items are added to the Lions Store each year, as older or less popular products are removed. In 2015, Lions introduced product lines themed to the 100th Anniversary in 2017.

Merchandise ships directly from inventory at Oak Brook or from satellite fulfillment centers in Helsinki, Finland, and Tokyo, Japan. Other points of distribution include Lions’ multiple district offices around the world.

The Lions New Member Kit is the most requested item with more than 85,000 kits shipped annually, followed closely by the Perfect Attendance Award. Other bestsellers include lapel pins, vests, pens, nametags, caps and banners.

Looking through old catalogues opens windows into Lions history. Some items are gone forever, like the Goat Medal, which members were enjoined to wear until they recruited a new club member. And those cast aluminum grave markers? Thirty-four forever loyal Lions each bought one in 2014, an average sales year.

The Lions Store has something for everyone.

Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. Don’t forget to share these stories with new members so they gain an understanding of Lions history!


Touchstone Story–Molokai

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Hansen’s disease, more commonly known as leprosy, is a chronic bacterial infection that attacks the nervous system and could ultimately result in the loss of limbs and disfigurement.

In 1866, decades before Hawaii would be annexed by the United States, its ruler King Kamehameha V exiled a number of men and women suffering from this disease to the isolated peninsula Kalaupapa, on the island of Molokai, the fifth-largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. Sent against their will and forced to stay, these men and women lived in caves or rudimentary shacks made of branches and were given no medical care. A Belgian priest, Father Damien de Veuster, moved to the colony in 1873 and helped to replace the run-down shacks with permanent houses. However, for decades, men, women and children throughout Hawaii who had leprosy continued to be exiled to live lives of struggle and rugged isolation.

At the dawn of the 20th century, more than a thousand men and women lived at the Molokai colony. By June 1948, the population of the colony had dropped to 280. In that year, Molokai became home to a 31-member Lions Club charter—half of whom were those with leprosy. It was the first and only civic organization at the settlement.

The charter’s birth marked a turning point for the Molokai colony that was celebrated with an all-day celebration attended by 500 Lions and guests from all around the Hawaiian islands, an event that would have been unimaginable on the peninsula just a few decades before. The new club was headed by community leaders. The local sheriff, the settlement administrator and the medical director were all Lions. The Kalaupapa Lions Club raised money for polio patients and held Christmas dinners to raise funds for people who were visually impaired. Lions planted an orchard on the island and helped build Judd Park, a scenic picnic site named for Lawrence Judd, former governor of Hawaii, Kalaupapa administrator and Lion. The club also donated a ramp for the island’s airport, through which Molokai’s many visitors have arrived, including celebrity entertainers like Shirley Temple and Red Skelton.

In 1969, the laws confining people with leprosy on Molokai were lifted, though some chose to remain on the island. With 20th century medical advances, Hansen’s disease is able to be treated and is no longer a cause for isolation and exile.

Molokai remains relatively isolated. The island sees a fraction of the visitors that explore the other Hawaiian islands, and a barge of groceries, sundries and other supplies arrives once a year to stock the local general store. But the legacy of the Kalaupapa Lions Club is proof that even those afflicted with a terrible disease can choose to give of themselves. Of the 17 total residents of Kalaupapa in 2013, eight of them were Lions. “We Serve” has rarely been so clearly modeled and exemplified as by those who, in another era, required help themselves.

Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. They’re a great resource for promoting service at your club meetings!



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