LIONS CLUBS MAKE A BIG IMPACT WITH SERVICE PROJECTS History Lessons in Colorado Educate and Inspire Students Author Teresa Funke of Fort Collins, Colorado, set out to make a difference when she feared that school budget cuts were shortchanging history lessons. She says her own love of history had led her to write historical fiction for young readers so they could learn about the contributions of the men, women and children of the World War II era. During school assemblies and inside classrooms, Funke’s presentations keep the compelling stories of another generation alive through her “Home-Front Heroes” series of books. Some of her biggest supporters are members of the Fort Collins Lions Club, who have embraced the Do Your Part School Kit Program created by Funke (www. teresafunke.com). They’ve donated more than 500 books to schools in the last two years and sponsored her presentations to more than 1,000 students. In turn, Funke has supported Lions by collecting used eyeglasses for them during some of her appearances. “The Do Your Part School Kit Program enabled us to donate books and teaching materials to needy schools in our area,” says Lion Irene Toliver. “We believe our young people need to know the history of our country. As a former teacher, I am concerned that a lot of kids today aren’t really learning about World War II, history and geography.” Funke uses her tales to connect young readers to their country’s past. Toliver, who accompanies Funke on her school presentations, says the author motivates youngsters to try their hand at creative writing by setting up scenarios for them to elaborate on and continue in their own words. “I want to help older kids understand how writing will directly affect their life goals,” says Funke. “I do an exercise where they tell me what they want to be when they grow up, and I tell them ways writing will affect their success in those specific jobs. With kids, it’s key to make it real to them.” “These kids are in awe of her,” says Toliver. “They sit there with their eyes wide open. When Teresa is talking, no one moves.” Toliver estimates that Lions have spent $2,000 to bring Funke’s presentations to hundreds of schoolchildren in four years. “I tell students how children made a huge difference during the World War II era—how they literally helped us win that war. I show all the things children did to help the war effort, and you can hear a pin drop in a gymnasium full of children when that slide show runs,” Funke says. “Most of these kids have never heard of Adolph Hitler or Pearl Harbor or anything about World War II, which is the reason I wrote the books. In fact, 26 percent of high school graduates don’t know who Adolph Hitler was. If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is.” Lions raise approximately $50,000 a year by operating twice-weekly bingo games. Much of that money is recycled back into the community and its schools, where Lions plan to continue sponsoring Funke’s presentations. “Many kids have parents away serving in the military,” says Toliver. “They feel such a strong connection to Teresa’s stories. It helps them to know what their sacrifice means to our country.” —Pamela Mohr Celebrating New Families When children are adopted into their “forever” families in the District Courts of Lubbock County, Texas, they find they have another happy surprise for them—a stuffed toy that comes complete with an official adoption certificate signed by the judge—just like their own. The Adopted Bears project was the idea of the District Clerk’s Office, Lubbock Legal Professionals and the office of the Child Protective Services Judge, says Lubbock Raider Ranch Lion Jeri Saffle, a former certified legal assistant. The bears are all donated. “Bears were brought to my office for several months and then donated at the first National Adoption Day event held in Lubbock County. Not all activities that occur at the courthouse are happy occasions,” points out District Clerk Barbara Sucsy. “So when an event like National Adoption Day is held, the community participates and shares the joys of families who are blessed with the addition of a child or several children on that day.” Lions have donated more than 100 stuffed bears and other soft animals since the project began in 2010, the same year the Raider Ranch Lions Club was chartered. Lions personally donated bears since the club hadn’t sponsored any fundraising activities yet, Saffle says. The plush toys are given only to children who are adopted through the court system and not private agencies. Before Lions stepped in to donate, local law offices, court employees and individuals contributed bears for adoption. “The number of adoptions has so increased, they were not keeping up with the need,” she adds. Lions delivered a new shipment of plush toys before the supply was depleted. During the moving courthouse ceremony Saffle witnessed on National Adoption Day in November, she says the judge advised children to take care of their new stuffed toys “just as your new parents will take care of you.” The club is composed mostly of retirees. They are currently selling recycling inkjet cartridges to raise money and have provided lumber for a blind Lion to build planters for residents of an assisted living facility to use for gardening.
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