Cliff Terry 0000-00-00 00:00:00
So what’s it really like to be a Lion? It’s usually rewarding, sometimes joyful and even occasionally frustrating. Just ask these six Lions. We did. Katie Breuel, 39 Fairwood Lions Club, Renton, Washington. A Lion since 1995 and past club president and district chairperson. Former teacher, now a stay-at-home mom. Daughters are 9 and 6. My father had been a Lion when I was growing up. In ’95 I was teaching in a middle school, and its Leo club adviser got me to join the Lions. My husband, Brett, became a Lion about three years after I did. When we started dating, he went to meetings with me and the club gave its approval (laughs). We had a group of Lion members who made the trek to our wedding. Later, when we welcomed our first child, there was a surprise baby shower after one of the meetings. When I got involved in District 19 B, I was looking for something that would really be hands-on for the clubs to become involved with children. I went to clubs and asked if they would collect books, and we set up something called the “Lions Giving Library.” It started in my garage, and we collected thousands of books. We’d take them to Head Start programs, Boys and Girls Clubs. We’d put the books on display, and the kids could pick out books that interested them. We’d put a little sticker in the front that said it was a gift from the Lions. We also went to domestic abuse shelters. Some 20 clubs in the district became involved. For the 2011 International Convention in Seattle, we put together a larger scale event called “Destination: Reading!” We brought in Lions Giving Library books and also designed hands-on activities. We had a teenager who didn’t like reading, but he was curious, and looked through the books. He was kind of a rough kid, and I wasn’t sure he would find something. But he found a book that got him really excited, because it would help him write his poetry. I was moved by that. At another event, a girl about 10 or 12 was so excited, she said, because she’d never had her own book. She went to each volunteer and asked us to sign her book, like a yearbook, because it was her first. It’s neat to see these things and know you’ve been a part of it. There also was an event for kids with disabilities, and this boy had autism. He apparently was just an avid reader. His mom wasn’t sure there was anything he’d be really drawn to because he’d read everything, but he found a book and was so excited because it was about dinosaurs. Autistic children don’t show a lot of emotion, especially around strangers, but he was smirking because he knew what that book was about. It was called “Dino Poop.” He thought that was pretty cool. And one very-expectant teen mom picked out a book for herself, and then wanted something that she could read to her baby. It’s so satisfying to do something so simple with a book that otherwise might end up in recycling. You know, books can have a second life. They can be something very loved and very treasured. For me personally, Lions has been part of our family. I remember pushing the stroller as I was picking up litter and I was wearing the orange vest, and a passing motorist hollered out, “Oh, that’s great! They’re letting you serve your ‘time’ with your kids!” (laughs) It was kind of a joke with our club that a lot of people look at community service as some sort of consequence. My kids, at least, really see it as a kind of honor. They come to book giveaways and interact with the other children, making recommendations about books they had read. And they’re learning about what it is to serve. I feel that my children want to help, they want to be involved with what Lions are doing because they’ve seen that positive effect. They know the different members. My daughter refers to one Lion’s wife as “my grown-up friend, Janet.” Once I decided to stay at home, there was sort of a disconnect where I didn’t have a professional life and colleagues, so I poured myself into Lions a little more and built something that I’m really proud of. I don’t think I would have had that opportunity in many organizations. You have your seasons of life, and there are definitely times when I’ve had to step back a little bit from Lions because of the challenges of having a young family. So it’s finding that balance between how much leadership I can take on without compromising the needs of my family. Another challenge is getting new members involved, instead of the same volunteers. Although there are certainly some super heroes in our district whose name is on everything. Advice for younger Lions? When I became involved at the zone and district levels is when I really got a better sense of the power of Lionism and felt that I could grow from the leadership training. So any opportunity you have to attend conferences or training at a higher level is very beneficial. You begin to be a “known person.” And that’s where you really feel you can get something done. Advice for Lions clubs? Definitely welcome families. Be creative to make it a part of the family. If my club wasn’t so supportive, I wouldn’t be able to attend. So now I can go to meetings with the kids, and my husband can meet us there when he gets home. It really makes a difference if the club is flexible. Richard (Grover) Cleaveland, 59 Member of Hilton Head Island Noon Lions Club in South Carolina and a Lion since 1984. Retired as an Air Force colonel after 30 years of service. My nickname? In 1979 I was in training with the Air Force in Florida, learning to fly an F-15. Everybody had to have a “call sign.” Remember, in the movie “Top Gun”, Tom Cruise was “Maverick” and others had call signs like “Iceman” and “Goose.” The scheduling board didn’t have my real name, but “Grover” instead. And those names stick, because if you tell them you really don’t like it, you’ll have it forever. My father was a 60-year Lion. In fact, the day he died they already had his 60-year pin ready, and if he had made one more meeting it would have been presented. Around Christmas one year I was in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and a friend who was a Lion told me, “I’ll pick you up at 6:40 a.m. for the Alamogordo Breakfast Lions.” I remember they had really strict procedures for new persons. You had to attend three meetings before being invited to join and your sponsor had to pay for your three meals, and if he didn’t, he’d be in big trouble. Anyway, I joined in 1984. I was in the military, so I attended meetings all over. I attended meetings in Bitburg, Germany, but didn’t want to transfer from New Mexico because their dues were $8,000 a year. They were mostly doctors because they started the club in a hospital. At their Dance Festival, they ran the champagne booth. I commented that half the product we were selling was to our own members, so if we just chipped in $100 each, we wouldn’t have to work and would still have the same amount of money. They said, “Yes, but then our wives wouldn’t let us stay out until 3 a.m.” In Iceland, at the Keflavik Lions meeting, I noticed a sign telling the amount of kroner that each member owed. I discovered it was close to $300. I thought it really must be an expensive dinner. Turned out it was for yearly dues. Incidentally, they take off three months in the summer because they finally have good weather then. In Poland, I transferred my membership to the Warsaw Lions. The focus of the club is different. In fact, European clubs are quite different. When they had a flood, instead of a fundraiser, they went to their own companies and other companies and asked for donations on behalf of the Lions. And they got $1 million. So I couldn’t argue with the business model, but they’re missing what I like to talk about: You really become a Lion when you sweat next to the Lions. Then I had lunch with a guy who said, “We’re going to charter a new women’s-only club, the Warsaw Arka Lions, and we’d like you to be one of the speakers at the charter ceremony.” They said my English was easy to understand because I didn’t use hard words and spoke slowly. I asked the president if I could transfer into her club, and she said, “No, we don’t take men.” I knew that. I was just being a little humorous. However, she later said, “We’ve taken a vote and you may transfer into our club. But there’s only one reason: we know you’re not staying forever.” I said, “Thank you, but I’ll stay where I am.” My biggest challenge is being a mobile Lion. The real heart of who we are came about between 1946 and 1965, because all those WWII veterans were coming back. And they developed a model: one working parent, one parent at home, people living in the same area. We’re still using that model in a lot of places, even though a majority of people today don’t stay anywhere very long. I’ve talked to International about this. It’s frustrating. In order to get my membership transferred, I ended up calling International and having it done manually. What’s my club up to? We partner with the Hilton Head Island Lions Club and the Sun City Lions Club to do Camp Leo. Every summer 25 to 30 legally blind children come there for a week of fun in the sun, and that’s been very successful. We’ve had a Camp Leo event called the “Greens Keeper’s Revenge Golf Tournament.” (The publicity says, “Being legally blind is always a challenge for the children who attend this camp. So it is only fair that we add some challenges to our tournament. You will laugh more than you cry!”) This one guy finds the weirdest places to put the pins. You’ll find equipment out there sitting where you don’t expect it. He put one pin six inches off the front of the green and parked a trailer in front of it. So you either had to roll it under the trailer or go over it and come back. We’re facing the same challenges many Lions clubs face: aging membership. I do a whole seminar on that. One of the things that I’m finding is that there are two directions to go–forward and back. There’s no such thing as standing still. If you’re standing still, you’re moving backwards. Well, I feel that a lot of our clubs have gotten caught in that syndrome. I read an article that said, don’t be on autopilot. Right now, some Lions are on autopilot. Have been for years. So our current president and I are trying to stir that pot. We have a lot of people unhappy with us, but we’re trying to do things with the same people without thinking about replacing folks. But if we don’t turn the corner, we’re going to eventually get ready to shut down because we’re aging. It took 18 months to convince Lions we needed a website. Why? Because most of us don’t have a computer, you know, so we don’t “need” a website. A friend gave us a program on social media—Facebook and YouTube and all—and several of our members came to me after and said, “I hope you understood what she said, because I don’t have a clue.” Well, we have a website now through Lions International, and we’re going to open a Facebook page. You have to do those things. People want electronic media. But we’re having a hard time getting some of the older, more established members to go down that road. I also think we assume that everybody on Hilton Head is like our club members—retired. We had a great opportunity for a fundraiser, the Harlem Ambassadors, who are like the Globetrotters, and one of the board members told me, “Nobody plays basketball on Hilton Head, everybody here’s retired.” Well, there actually are a lot of young people on this island. The biggest thing is sweating beside another Lion and accomplishing something. I always love it when a project ends and it’s been successful. I tell people how much we worked at a Christmas tree lot with the Arlington South Lions Club of Virginia. When I was off the schedule, I’d go home, turn on the TV and think, what am I doing sitting here? So I’d get in the car and go back to the lot. Because that was what we did. A lot of 80-year-old members were out there with me, lifting up those trees, sawing off the bottoms. Then there was the time at Camp Leo when one of the young (blind) guys said, “Wow, it’s so neat to be here for a whole week and not be different.” And this year one of the campers said to me, “I’ve never seen a beach before.” One of the others said, “You can’t see a beach.” And the other answered, “You know what I mean.” I thought, he was really excited. Those are the kinds of things you remember. At the Alamogordo club, we helped sponsor a home for young girls who were coming out of bad home situations. Every Halloween we’d take them to a “haunted house” in one of the downtown stores and then have pizza. Our son, who was in about 4th grade, went with me. I told him, “Sometimes the girls get a little anxious or angry, don’t worry about it.” Well, we didn’t have any incidents, and on our way home our son said to me, “Dad, they were just like anybody else.” I said, “You’re right. They were a good group.” He didn’t say anything for a minute or two and then said, “Maybe they’re different on the inside.” I thought, Oh, my. A major moment. Murray Silver, 58 Vice president of Savannah Lions Club in Georgia and a Lion since 2007. Author of “Great Balls of Fire: The Uncensored Story of Jerry Lee Lewis,” made into 1989 film; co-owner of Bonaventure Books publishers; former rock concert promoter, writer and photographer. My friends in the entertainment business are very surprised to find out that I’m a Lion and how involved I am. They want to know, what is it about Lionism? What does it do for me that the book, music, movie and TV businesses don’t? What I tell them is this: There have been many times during luncheons, service projects, work days and social occasions that I am constantly reminded how much I enjoy being in the company of my fellow club members. I do not have any children; my wife goes home to Brazil half the year. I think of the Lions as family. We are good friends, having a good time, doing good works. It is no more complex than that. I’m 58 years old and all my life I’ve been a one-man show. The great thing about joining the Lions is that I don’t have to be that anymore. Not only do I have a club, I have an international organization, and I see that it’s possible to change the world by working with this organization. The club was founded in 1922. My great-great uncle was a charter member. So the club became the most important thing because it was my legacy. I was raised in a unique environment. My father was Martin Luther King’s lawyer and Coretta King’s lawyer. I became a speechwriter for Mrs. King when I was in college. My father was on the front line of the civil rights movement, and that’s all about poor black people. So growing up in this environment in the Deep South in the ’50s and ’60s taught me compassion not only for poor people but also poor people who were forced into crime because of their lot in life. My father was a criminal lawyer, and he represented these people. For 10 years I worked in his firm after school. These are the people I encountered every day. My father taught me that people had rights. My most satisfying project? We have a new project called Project Vision, which links Lions clubs with local YMCAs to do vision screening for children. Because YMCAs have become daycare centers and summer camps, and some of these children we don’t reach through the elementary schools. So this is the first time in 2,000 years that we have put together the Christians and the Lions. And in doing so, what we’ve done is been able to help both organizations. What I’m trying to is take this model for these two great international organizations not only statewide and nationwide but globally. A friend and I started this thing. He and I were the Guiding Lions for a new club in Pooler, Georgia. A woman walked in and said she managed the local YMCA and was thinking of joining our club but only if we could help her. All of a sudden it just hit me like a brick. I said the first thing we can do for you is a vision screening and it would be the club’s first service project. I’m trying to take Project Vision to the state level and to Lions Clubs International, but I have to admit that I’m having a very difficult time. One of the problems in Lionism is that this is not only a multilevel organization, but it has so many levels that get in the way of each other. This is an organization of volunteers, and at a certain point dealing with them is like herding cats. Advice for clubs? Being a Guiding Lion, when I canvas for members, I start at the mayor, city council, police chief, fire chief and the principals of the schools to look for members. Then I go to every single business owner and their staff. I tell them, “This is a terrific way for you to help your community directly without you having to shoulder all the burden with your time or finances.” Secondly, I find other local nonprofits that are having a problem. For example, when I was putting together the Garden City Club, I found a black minister who heads up a program called Savannah Feed the Hungry. I saw he was having a shortfall and told him he should join the new Lions club and put it to work for him. He joined the club, which helped him feed the hungry as its first project. So my advice to clubs is don’t think of your club as a self-contained unit. Find other people who are already in the business of helping society. A lot are experiencing a shortfall because of this economy. Link your club to these other organizations. Help them do what they do. Ask them how they can be helped. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Help other wheels keep spinning. The thing I tell young people I’ve brought into the club is this: this is a difficult time on this planet. God knows it’s very difficult on young people trying to enter the business world. I tell them that to join the club is a wonderful way to network. There are 60 of us, and a number are prominent business owners. Some are retired but have held important positions. These are people you would not meet in any other condition. Your lives would not cross paths. This is a great place to find mentors. Whether they help you find a job or not, these people combined have thousands of years of experience. We’ve got several veterans from the armed forces, men and women, black and white, all religions. Bottom line: you’ve got like the “Supreme Court” when it comes to wisdom. You can sit down at lunch in this informal setting and pick their brains. I tell them: this is old school, small town, Southern stuff. This is a very effective means for a young professional to get along in this world. When you’re a member of the Lions club, it says something about you that you do not have to say about yourself. When the world sees that purple L on you, it knows that you’re one of the good guys. You don’t have to tell people that you’re caring and concerned and civicminded. We say that for you. This is one of the surest ways I know to help you take your rightful place in this society. Advice for older Lions? Listen, whether or not you become zone chair or governor, that’s not the most important thing. What’s important is this: before you are gone, before you stand down, before you quit or you die, the only thing I urge you to do is pass along what you know to someone else. Pick young members and mentor them, and not only pass along what you know, but your love of Lionism. If something happens to you today, all of that experience goes with you. My hope is that these younger members today will be here 40 or 50 years from now and continue our rich tradition. Jennifer (Jen) Buell, 27 President of the WesternU Campus Lions Club of Pomona, California, and a Lion since 2011. In her third year at the College of Optometry, Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona. My father has been a Lion longer than I’ve been alive. I’ve been exposed to Lions my whole life. You know how Lions clubs try to steal the bell and gavel from club presidents? Well, when I was a kid, I remember going into the refrigerator and being puzzled to find a giant block of JELL-O with a “hammer” in it. Actually, it was the gavel my father had stolen from his president. As president, I have yet to get through a meeting without losing my gavel (laughs). I’ve had my gavel stolen at every meeting so far by other members. So I have to buy it back. My parents have always been very big on community service. They’ve been great role models. One of the reasons I went into optometry is to help people in need. I like the Lions because they’re really compatible with my profession. I can relate to the people we serve because they’re very much like the patients I deal with. Growing up, I always dreamed of wearing a yellow vest like my dad. I think our young club members are starting to get excited about the vests. We might go ahead and order them. When I was 16, I did the Lions Clubs International Youth Exchange program in Japan for the summer. I also worked one summer in Jilotepec, Mexico, with the Northern California Friends in Sight group. So for me, it’s been not just about serving the underserved, but also exposing youth to cultural experiences, helping them become active members in the community. It plays a big role in my drive to travel and help people. I had two different host families. They took me traveling all over. I went golfing at Mt. Fuji. That was pretty cool. One host mom owned a sushi restaurant, so I would help there. I also went to several Lions clubs meetings. My host mom helped me write a speech in Japanese for one of them. They also bought me a Yukata, a traditional summer kimono, and took me to the meeting in Ginza, Tokyo. I had to walk through town from the sushi restaurant to the meeting at a hotel. Imagine a white, 5-foot-seven-inch girl walking through a crowded city in traditional Japanese clothing! I was quite the spectacle. Challenges as president? Getting people involved. We have 68 members, a very good size, but I’d say on average we have maybe 20 people at our meetings. So to get them more involved, we’re slowly setting up committees, and I’m trying to delegate more. Our goal has been to do at least one community service event a month, which we’ve been successful doing. They mostly involve vision screenings. But we’re going to try to do one or two very large health fairs per year and other vision screenings that are interdisciplinary so we can get more members from other medical professions at our school—medicine, dental, podiatry, physical therapy. Advice for younger Lions? Getting involved early is really important. Not only for the experience and the passion that it gives you for helping other people, but also for networking. We have a lot to learn from our older Lions members. There’s a lot of wisdom that can be passed down, and if we don’t take advantage of that, then this club could be lost. And I think that would be really sad. With the economy these days, networking is very important. We have older Lions, faculty, and also we work very closely with the Pomona Host Lions Club. I’m outgoing. And organized. When I was helping organize the club, I was also planning my wedding, finishing my second year in optometry school and volunteering at vision screenings. I’m also very reliable. So I tend to take on too much, because I want to make sure it gets done. I’m a young adult who has a lot of values that are similar to the older population. I try really hard to uphold those values and teach my peers. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist. It’s frustrating wondering why people aren’t getting more involved. Probably one of my weaknesses, with all the leadership positions I’ve had over the years, is learning how to delegate and let go. Being president has been great for that. I really have to delegate. It’s a great learning experience. Art Ruben, 69 Member of the Everett Central Lions Club in Washington and a Lion since 1984. Past club president and zone chair. Retired, last 14 years employed by Allstate Insurance. Satisfactions of being a Lion? Oh, my goodness gracious! Do you have an hour? Our club does a salmon derby for the blind. We take anywhere from 35 to 40 fishing in Puget Sound. We’ve been doing it for 67 years. One of the most inspirational moments was working with a 9- year-old boy, who caught the biggest salmon and tied with a 93-year-old gentleman who also had a 13-pounder. That was so great to see that boy’s smile! We also sponsored an evening with the symphony. I arranged with the conductor for the blind to come to a special session. He stopped and talked to them about what was going on. Afterwards, he invited them on stage, especially the kids, to “see” the instruments. I remember a young girl standing next to the kettledrum and putting her hands on it so she could feel the vibration and what was making that kind of noise. It was terribly inspiring. You kind of get a feel for actually what being blind is all about. Challenges? We call them “opportunities” (laughs). The biggest one is getting people to understand why they should become a member. I like to think I can sell it to everybody, but I know that I can’t. It’s simply a matter of showing them the benefits for themselves and their community. But not everybody is going to join when you ask them. You know, my mother became blind with macular degeneration. She really became frustrated and angry at the world. She had to give up her job, and she couldn’t drive or enjoy reading or sewing. She had been very active, worked practically every day since she got out of the 8th grade. My father was disabled and she tried to support the family. What brought her out of her shell, she started to take a GED course at the local community college and finished in short order. She was about 66, the college’s oldest graduate ever. She went on to get an associate’s degree in social work, working with community services, and just totally blossomed. She developed the Evergreen Association for the Blind, and helped develop a bowling team for the blind. I didn’t become a Lion because she was blind, but because of her inspiration. I remembered the work she had done so I joined Lions, which was a natural because of their work with eyesight. I’m outgoing. Coming from a sales background, one of the things I’ve done is taking on the role of public relations for our district and my club. I was honored in 2008 with a public relations award by Lions International. Just having the fun of wanting to tell others is why I’m driven to work with public relations and driven to bring in new members. Advice for Lions? Figure out what you want, and then do it. Lions represents a tremendous opportunity to bring your ideas and energy and enthusiasm. You’ve got the support of an international organization behind you. Younger Lions don’t have as much time to devote, with younger families and all. They’re being stretched, especially in this economy. The younger people have a lot more to gain through Lions, but they don’t have the extra funds it might take, or the time. Bob Taylor, 76 Past President of Edenton Lions Club in North Carolina and a Lion since 2007. Retired after a career in advertising and sales on the agency, client and media sides. I had been president of the Rotary Club in Windsor, North Carolina, where I worked. They were big on fundraising, which is my expertise that I brought to the Lions. But Rotary members basically meet and eat and don’t do anything. They’re a business club, as opposed to a service club. Our Lions club is very active, with a lot of different projects. We have a 93-year-old neighbor who has macular degeneration and is legally blind. My wife and I are caregivers for her. So we know firsthand what some of these people are going through, and what some of their needs are. Then we work with the social services department in the county government. I think there are 30 or 40 legally blind people in our county. I also drive a friend who also has macular degeneration to his eye doctor in Norfolk. One eye is gone, and he’s getting shots in the other eye to keep from losing sight in that one. In 2009 I got the Outstanding Membership award. One of my big projects was recruitment. We did very well, increasing membership by 20 percent one year and 15 percent the other. I got a lot of satisfaction out of getting younger members. We’re trying to focus on new young blood. I also started a fundraiser pancake breakfast, and I had the satisfaction of getting it organized and doing the advertising. It was a good team effort. One of our members handled the operational and food service side. The first year we raised about 3,500 bucks. One of the reasons we started the breakfast was another fundraising project just died. It wasn’t generating the revenue, so we had to come up with something different. Also, the club had a $1,000 scholarship program for students going into medical careers—nursing, diabetic medicine, that kind of thing— and needed someone to give it a boost, and I’ve taken that over. I was also chairman of the White Cane Drive this year. We put an extra emphasis on giving by members and friends, and direct mail to businesses— increasing our giving by 24 percent in a bad economy. Our clubs could probably do a better job of communication to their communities, whether it be advertising or whatever. Most clubs don’t have an ad budget, but you could find some nonprofit rates from newspapers. For example, I could buy a strip on the front page of our local newspaper for 50 bucks. You could also do PR. But you’ve got to make it interesting, and supply the photographs. These small town papers don’t have the staff to do the writing. So if you’ve got a good writer and/or a good photographer, give them that responsibility. We haven’t lost members to other clubs and not too many have moved away. But this is a retirement community and we’ve lost probably half a dozen members to death since I’ve been here. That’s hard to deal with. There’s also a lot of competition— nonprofits raising money from the same people at the same time. With more jobless and more working part-time and lower re-entry salaries, there is less giving. I recruited a young fireman, whom I’m kind of mentoring. What you try to do is become a mentor so that they get involved and just don’t become a number. The problem with the younger men or women is that they have kids who are in middle school or high school and they have so many competing activities. So we’re trying to generate more interest in the club. We have good programs, like a recent one by a pediatrician on child abuse and sex abuse, which was timely. Programs like that will keep younger folks interested, get them away from the tube. Also, with the economy, they can benefit from networking with the older members. My advice for older Lions is don’t get burned out. Stay young. Most of our guys are very active, but we have a few who have kind of faded away. I’m not afraid of burning myself out. That’s why I’ve retired and “unretired.” I just can’t sit around the house and do nothing. I try to keep an active mind. I go to McDonald’s every morning for a coffee club, with a group of peers. By the way, did you hear about the guy who was 105 years old? A television reporter asked, “What’s the greatest thing about being 105?” The man answered, “No peer pressure.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Lions+on+Lions/1031814/107530/article.html.