What do former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier and New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary have in common? They have all been members of Lions Clubs International.
The service model and camaraderie of Lions Clubs is attractive to people from every walk of life including people in the spotlight: well-known athletes, politicians, television personalities, entertainers, innovators and business leaders. Lions clubs have welcomed them all with open arms. For Lions, all that matters is that people have a heart for service.
Sir Edmund Hillary joined the Remuera Lions Club in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1965, after finding out about the association from his family lawyer, Bruce Oliphant, a charter member of the club. A decade earlier, Hillary and his partner Tenzing Norgay made history as the first people to climb to the top of the world’s tallest mountain, reaching the summit of Mt. Everest in 1953.
Yet despite Hillary’s fame, he was always to serve his fellow members, assist people in need and encourage others to do the same. In 1966, one of the Remuera Lions Club’s activities became raising money for the Himalayan Trust, which Hillary had founded several years earlier to help people in isolated mountain regions of Nepal be healthier and economically stable. In the mid-1960s, the Lions clubs of Auckland raised more than 8,000 New Zealand pounds through lectures and tickets sales to help build the Kunde Hospital in Nepal.
Serving with Lions Clubs has been attractive to other explorers as well. The first astronaut from Switzerland, Claude Nicollier, joined the Montreux Lions Club in 1999, the same year he completed his final mission in space, servicing the Hubble Space Telescope. Later becoming an honorary member, Nicollier continues to work with Lions and speak at events.
Lions never know whom they will inspire to serve. When Jimmy Carter returned home to Plains, Georgia, in the early 1950s after a career in the U.S. Navy, he joined the Plains Lions Club, where his father had been a charter member. Carter began serving in local projects, such as blood donation and eyeglass collection programs, but gradually, he took on more leadership roles, even serving as chairperson of Georgia’s multiple district council in 1968.
“Lions Clubs meant a great deal to me,” Carter said. “It gave me a chance to learn about public service without holding public office.”
After Carter finished his term as the 39th president of the United States. He continued his passion for service by founding The Carter Center in Atlanta to advance peace and health around the globe. He remained a Lion, and through The Carter Center, partners with Lions Clubs to help address diseases such as river blindness and trachoma.
From the White House to the highest mountain and everywhere in between, where there’s a need, there’s a Lion.
I recently spent time in Sri Lanka, a small country that has five Lions eye hospitals serving a population of over 21 million people. LCIF has helped fund all five eye hospitals. I was very impressed with the facilities, their level of care and the active involvement of the local Lions.
On a recent trip through the United States, I visited a fantastic Lions KidSight USA program in Iowa. KidSight USA is a national coalition that brings together Lions vision-screening programs for young children. Last year, Iowa KidSight screened more than 46,000 children, ranging in age from six months to six years. Five percent of those children needed to see an eye doctor. That means 2,300 children might still be living with visual impairments if not for KidSight USA! Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) supports the screening programs through grant funding.
Good things happen when we work together, and I am so proud of the work that Lions do to improve the lives of people in their communities and around the world. Remember, it is only through your generosity that we are able to improve the lives of millions every year. As we approach the end of the fiscal year, please consider making a donation so that LCIF can reach its fundraising goal and continue changing lives.
Together in Service,
Chairperson, Lions Clubs International Foundation
Click here to read the rest of the May newsletter.
Don’t miss the new Leadership Development Club Officer Webinar Series!
If you are a new or returning club officer, join us as we explore the various roles and responsibilities of a club officer, including updates on the Centennial Service Challenge and Centennial Legacy Projects.
Two sessions will be offered for each topic. Click the links below to register.
What is it that makes people around the world choose to join Lions clubs when there are so many organizations competing for their time and energy?
To find out, Lions Clubs International conducted a global survey of nearly 8,000 members in 134 nations in 2012, and the answer that came back was crystal clear: By a wide margin, the No. 1 reason members gave for joining Lions is “to serve the community where I live.”
The desire to help local communities has been at the heart of the Lions mission from the very beginning, reflecting founder Melvin Jones’ devotion to the concept of service. What if the very people “who are successful because of their drive, intelligence and ambition were to put their talents to work improving their communities?” Jones asked a century ago.
The modern Lions have done just that. With more than 1.35 million members in more than 200 nations, Lions have created the world’s largest service club organization. Lions’ service takes many forms, from providing guide dogs to the blind to cleaning up the environment. But while members differ from one another in some ways, Lions worldwide share a common impulse to help others.
“We’ve gotten a lot of membership just from doing service in the community,” said Ty’East Alleyne-Bunn, past president of the Central Brooklyn Lions Club in New York. New members come on board because “people want to do good,” she said. “People want to help.”
By joining forces with others through Lions service projects, people find they can accomplish more for their community. “As Lions, we give our gift of service throughout the year,” Sid L. Scruggs III, who served as international president from 2010 to 2011, said in a letter to members in LION Magazine. “And because we don’t act alone, but combine our energies, ideas and resources, we are a mighty force for good.”
Joining the Lions offers a way to make new acquaintances, take part in fun outings and enjoy stature in the community. But it is service that ranks as the single biggest reason for becoming a Lion, with 63 percent of the respondents rating service to their community as the main reason for becoming a member. No other answer topped 50 percent.
Other reasons for joining: being with friends (37 percent), the prestige of being part of a large international organization (16 percent), being with family members who are already Lions (12 percent), networking to grow a career or business (9 percent), and receiving tangible recognition for accomplishments (5 percent). Members were allowed to list more than one reason.
“Before I joined the Lions, I only knew it was an honor to be a member,” Wing-Kun Tam of Hong Kong, China, who served as international president from 2011 to 2012, said in an interview with LION Magazine. “After I joined, I started to understand the spirit of Lions.” It was only then, he said, that “I understood we are to help the needy and share our happiness with others.”
Last week, Lions clubs volunteers from around the United States converged on Washington, D.C. to meet with congressional representatives and their staffs to discuss issues important to Lions and their local communities.
Jimmy M. Ross, of Quitaque, TX represented the Lone Star State in this annual event known as Lions Day on Capitol Hill. Mr. Ross, a former president of Lions Clubs International, met with Representative Joe Barton (R, district 06) and staff members from several other Texas congressional offices to solicit support for full funding of Title IV, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which includes provisions specifically designed to elevate social emotional learning (SEL) in public schools. Under the provisions of ESSA, states like Texas and its local school districts now have more flexibility to define their assessments of student success. This includes nonacademic factors as indicators of accountability, such as student engagement, school climate, and safety. The legislation also encourages schools to establish learning environments and enhance students’ effective learning skills essential for academic success.
In March of 2016, Lions Clubs International joined a coalition of organizations formed to urge Congress to fund Title IV Part of ESSA at its authorized level of $1.65B. This was a reaction to the President’s budget request for funding the block grant at less than half the authorized amount.
SEL is of particular interest to Lions. According to Mr. Ross, Lions Quest is a youth development program of Lions Clubs International used in schools in the United States and around the world which helps develop the physical, mental and emotional well-being of children. Mr. Ross stated, “Lions Clubs has witnessed the success of programs such as Lions Quest and has worked to include SEL programs into federal education law. We have made a real difference in improving the school environment for children. If more school districts in Texas implemented programs such as Lions Quest, it would dramatically improve the classroom environment, making it more conducive to learning.”
Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization, with over 25,000 members in nearly 900 clubs in Texas alone.
For more information on how you can volunteer in your community, go to lionsclubs.org.
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