LIONS CLUBS MAKE A BIG IMPACT WITH SERVICE PROJECTS On the Path to Community Service It bothered Cabrillo Lion Fil Munoz every time he walked an unfinished path alongside a sports field built at Polo Grounds Park in Aptos, California. He knew Lions could finish the pathway. After much hard work, that’s exactly what they did. “The setting is along a creek edged by coastal redwood trees,” says Lion Barbara Chamberlain. “Twenty years earlier, some local groups including Lions built youth sports playing fields on property that was once a polo field used by wealthy San Franciscans on vacation. Lion Fil knew the path stopped because of a lack of funds.” He suggested to Lions, several of whom are retired from the construction trades, that they tackle the half-mile path’s completion. Chamberlain says it was the biggest project taken on by Cabrillo Lions since they built a community center 40 years earlier. “The majority of club members were in their 80s. However, nothing stopped them once they began the project,” Chamberlain points out. They obtained the necessary county permits to begin the work and hired a contractor to grade the route and frame the new five-foot-wide pathway. She credits Lion Steve Irving for his persistence in acquiring donations of 5,100 feet of pressure-treated wood, 200 tons of gravel and 75 tons of a topping mixture called California gold. Even with donations valued at more than $20,000, Lions spent $11,000. Most of those funds were raised by the weekly Bingo games sponsored by the Cabrillo Lions and three other clubs in the area. Lion Tom Garske, a retired building contractor, brought a small tractor onsite to move the materials, and Lion Jay Johnson contributed the use of several other pieces of equipment. “The work crew brought their own shovels,” says Chamberlain. “The oldest worker was 90 and the youngest, 50. The average age of the workers was 78.” Lions and some of their family members contributed more than 600 hours in volunteer labor. The entire project took seven months from first gathering appropriate county permits to completion. Lions were not content to rest on their pathway laurels, however. While working, Irving saw picnic benches that had been discarded behind a shed. Lions repaired them and created a picnic grove in the redwoods alongside the path. Rolling on the River Canoes and other watercraft using the Miller River in Massachusetts are able to do so without worry after members of the Athol Lions Club spent three weeks cleaning it of dangerous submerged debris. “We removed 30 trees from the Miller River that collapsed as part of a massive Nor’easter storm when 26 inches of heavy wet snow piled up on the leaves that had not yet fallen off the trees,” says Keith Kent. “The end result was a disaster of downed trees and limbs in the region that created significant safety hazards for both civilians and emergency services alike.” “We work diligently to provide safety to local paddlers and nature lovers,” says Kent. “Many beavers, eagles, hawks, blue herons, deer, bobcats and more are just as critical to the river as the river is for them for their survival.” A Home for Heroes “Home is where the heart is,” points out Eloise Jurgens, a member of the On Top of the World (OTOW) Lions Club in Ocala, Florida. Lions should know what makes a home since they helped create one for homeless veterans. Volunteers of America purchased the former Spanish-style Ritz Historic Inn at a foreclosure auction in 2010 with a matching $800,000 grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Lions became involved when Estelle Clark learned about the project and urged members to participate. Jurgens says the club “wasted no time getting started.” They agreed to sponsor a two-bedroom suite to house two veterans. “The facility is now renamed the Ritz Hotel Veterans Home and will serve as a two-year transitional housing project for 50 homeless veterans,” says Jurgens. “The total project cost is estimated at $2 million, including renovations.” The Lions-sponsored area contains a space for watching television or reading, sleeping quarters, kitchenette and private bathroom facilities. While Lions were cleaning and painting the residence, they were also combing the community for donations. Lions received furniture, kitchen appliances, linens, gift certificates and other useful items from retail stores and individuals. “We weren’t really surprised by the generosity of community businesses because they’ve always been there when our club has needed an extra hand,” says Clark. “We will always be a part of this project since there is upkeep and replacement of items when they’re no longer usable. We work as a team.” The 32-member club is located in an “over 55” residential community. Other projects include vision and hearing screening of elementary schoolchildren, collecting gifts for around 300 needy children at Christmas, participating in school reading programs, conducting diabetes screenings, planting trees and responding to vision needs.
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