LIONS CLUBS MAKE A BIG IMPACT WITH SERVICE PROJECTS Allen Crane, a Las Cruces, New Mexico, Lion, recalls hearing his father talking about being a Lion. “My father joined the Lions in 1926 in Midland, Texas, and was a Lion when he died in 1999. His first three meetings were held on the courthouse steps,” he says. “Lions brought a sack lunch and the club furnished tea.” That tradition of community service was instilled in Crane early in life, and he continues to share it with his wife, Virginia. They started a reading lab with volunteers and five donated computers in a Las Cruces church in 2000, the same year they joined the club. “Lions from several Las Cruces clubs and around the state soon became involved, and in 2005, the New Mexico Lions Crane Reading Foundation became a not-for-profit,” Crane explains. Now supported by Lions clubs throughout New Mexico, the program has improved reading levels for 3,000 children and many adults. It’s estimated that as much as nearly half the adult population cannot read at even a fifth-grade level in New Mexico. The Cranes’ experience teaching special education students strengthened their resolve to improve those numbers by seeking a different approach earlier in their career. “I had a teacher harassing me daily about why one of her students couldn’t read. We discovered she had a visual perception problem,” Crane says. “Watching TV, the eyes look straight ahead, not moving, converging or changing focus—all skills necessary for academic success. Body movement programs the brain, getting it organized and ready to learn.” They investigated methods to help this one child but learned how to help many. An optometrist told the Cranes about a successful program developed by the Winter Haven Lions in Florida in the 1950s that used templates of shapes— circle, square, triangle, diamond and rectangle—to improve dexterity and boost reading skills. They traveled there to learn more in 1974. “Since then, we have looked for ways to move students from the bottom group to the top and added them to our program,” he explains. “The oldest we have served is 75 and the youngest, 5.” Cathy Waters, a Las Cruces Lion and director of the New Mexico Lions Crane Reading Foundation (www. nmlcrf.com), explains, “The program relies on several critical elements to improve literacy: desk height, eye examinations and prescription glasses, development of gross motor skills, reading practice using computer programs, allergy management, writing composition and proper skill-related placement of children in classes.” The curriculum uses computer software that tests phonics skills, comprehension, vocabulary and fluency. It instructs users in grammar and writing; tests determine if a user is being instructed at the right skill level. In addition to Lions’ funding, the project also has received grants from other sources. In 2012, the program moved to a Las Cruces middle school where the Cranes and volunteers use two school computer labs to teach. “After school, we use our own computers in another classroom where we continue our after- school program,” he says. “The program can be replicated in any school. Lions looking for ways to improve literacy skills can start with small, simple but effective projects. Sponsor jump rope contests around the world for those hibernating brains. It would be a great start for literacy.” — Pamela Mohr Focus on Veterans Members of the Bayview Hunters Point Lions Club in San Francisco are supporting homeless veterans not only with food donations, but also by initiating a “Bikes 4 Vets” program. Collecting donated bikes and giving them to the veterans not only facilitates transportation and exercise; the bicycles are also sometimes necessary to offset medical conditions that make walking long stretches difficult for disabled veterans. “If the bikes are in need of repairs, they’re sent to San Quentin Prison, where the inmates fix them and return to us,” says Lion Gwen Strain. Strain personally delivers and distributes donated food to the Veteran’s Memorial Building every other Sunday. “Every Wednesday morning we distribute food to the San Francisco VA Medical Center. With the help of the San Mateo Lions Club and Amvets, we were able to give 55 homeless veterans plenty of new socks in a new program called Socks for Soul,” she adds. Ski Service Breaks Barriers As a skier for more than 40 years, Canandaigua, New York, Lion Dick Ernst is familiar with the feeling of freedom that comes with strapping on a pair of skis to make a run down a mountainside. He gladly represented Canandaigua Lions as one of many “mountain guides” for the Special Olympics of New York when its Alpine and Nordic competitions were held at Bristol Mountain last winter. More than 80 athletes participated. Ernst, who served as District 20-E2 governor in 2010-11, also volunteers with OASIS (Outdoor Adventures for Sacrifices in Service), an organization that assists disabled military veterans in Central and Western New York. Ernst participated in a chairlift evacuation drill with OASIS and the ski patrol. “The training is invaluable,” he says. “If there’s a malfunction and a chairlift becomes inoperable, we need to know how to get disabled skiers down and out safely.” He’s hoping to turn more Lions into mountain guides by promoting the organization through a district-wide campaign. Canandaigua Lions are facilitating meetings with other area Lions clubs and representatives of OASIS, which also supports archery, sailing and equestrian programs.
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