Jay Copp 2014-02-11 16:52:10
Attention! Lions are cool. And we can prove it ten times over–four different ways. Our service is cool. Our projects have cool names. We are great neighbors. And our special interest clubs are something special, too. Don’t believe us at the LION? We can take the heat. But that won’t be necessary. Read on and you’ll believe, too, that Lions are just plain cool. 10 Ways Lions Prove They Are Great Neighbors Finding Gold in Ashes A wildfire destroyed the home of Becky and Daren Sudweek near Pocatello, Idaho. Amid the ashes and rubble Becky amazingly found her grandmother’s and grandfather’s wedding rings–thanks to the sifter given to the family by Lions. “When something like this happens, you think, ‘what can I do?’” Fred Parrish, past District 39-E zone chairperson, told the Idaho State Journal. Lions also literally got Becky up and about by giving her compression socks to reduce the swelling in her feet. The fire ruined 66 homes, and Lions provided 25 people with replacement eyeglasses or contact lenses and many more with clothing and sundry items. Fight Fire with Kindness A dangerous, unpredictable wildfire tore through central Okanagan in British Columbia, Canada, in the fall of 2012. More than 1,500 residents fled their homes. Many ended up at the Westbank Lions Community Hall in West Kelowna. Westbank Lions, who own the center, were among the volunteers who registered evacuees and accounted for their needs. Built in 1930, the community center was a well-known, much-loved gathering place where folks partied, celebrated weddings and mourned loved ones. Ironically, a fire a year later severely damaged the center. Even more shocking to residents was that arson was the cause. In a twist, many residents and groups offered to help raise money for the Lions to rebuild. The club will rebuild but graciously declined offers of assistance. Wheels of Fortune Disability or age may take away mobility, but Holyoke Lions in Colorado make sure a lack of mobility doesn’t diminish independence and pride. The club secured a loaner wheelchair for use at the Holyoke Marketplace for ailing shoppers. Club is a Cut Above Two felled trees sat forlornly in the front yard of Brad Hengst. The 66-year-old resident of Jacobus, Pennsylvania, was fit enough a few months prior to chop them down to heat his home. But major surgery to remove a cancerous tumor now awaited him. Who you gonna call? Well, Hengst didn’t call Lions, but Lion Lance Beard heard of his plight. “I’ve owned a towing company for 43 years. I’m on the borough council, the church council, the cemetery council. I’m the who-do-da. When you watch the parade go by, you hear things,” Beard explains. Fifteen Jacobus Lions spent several hours cutting the trees and splitting and stacking the firewood. Two log splitters and a chipper made the job easier. How did they get them? “You just make phone calls,” Beard says. He adds, “Society is a ball–to keep that ball rolling smoothly you have to pitch in. You only live once, so why don’t you live to be happy? To be happy, you try to make other people’s lives who are having a hard time easier.” JoAnn Hengst, Brad’s wife, put it this way to the York Daily Record: “It’s great to have good neighbors.” Befriending Foes For 80 years Clark High School in Hammond, Indiana, and nearby Whiting High School have clashed on the football field. But before they knock heads they break bread– courtesy of Whiting Lions. A day or two before the hotly contested rivalry the Lions host an old-fashioned cookout for players, coaches, cheerleaders, parents and community members. This past year former Chicago Bear Emery Moorehead spoke to the crowd. The gathering teaches sportsmanship–not that the importance of winning is downplayed. The winner of the game the year before gets to the chow table first. “We were going to flip a coin this time, but a coach said, ‘No, that’s not how it’s done,’” recounts Efren Gomez, club president. Let There Be Light Christmas elves deliver early to produce an extraordinary display of lights in Itasca, a small Chicago suburb of 8,700 people and 90 Lions. In early December Lions, Scouts and other volunteers walk up and down the streets to 3,000 homes. They strap on doors hanger bags with a Lions logo that contain six candles and six small white paper bags. The Lions and others had assembled the gifts in a fast-paced assembly line at the park district garage. Lions have been distributing the luminaria since 1960. Lions light the bags on the main streets at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The 30,000 glowing lights form a winter wonderland. “The luminaria are a stunning site. It really is glorious to see the whole town get behind the effort,” says Lion Mark Schumacher. Stick to Pancake Breakfasts Lions in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, may be lousy cooks, but they sure know how to manage property. In the 1970s the Greencastle Lions bought a property that they converted into a restaurant. It fizzled. But they leased and later sold the business, which also included apartments. The club held the mortgage, and the money poured in. Not long ago the club’s foundation donated $108,000 to the library for remodeling and repairs and $72,000 to a playground association for equipment and resurfacing of tennis courts. Joann Williams, 2012-13 club president and a past district governor, told the Echo-Pilot newspaper that the money was generated because of the “courage and vision” of the members in the 1970s. And knowing what their strengths were. “We found out we couldn’t cook,” a Lion quipped. Taking the High Road Why just improve the community when you also can simultaneously teach youths responsibility? For nearly 20 years South Porcupine Lions in Ontario, Canada, clean like a whistle a six-kilometer stretch of Highway 101, says Lion George Cribbs. Last year nearly two dozen youths helped fill 80 bulging bags of trash and generated funds for school activities: the club forked over $20 to the student council of Ronald Michener Secondary School for each student volunteer. Sap Tap is Tops What’s more neighborly than preparing a delicious homemade treat for guests? In February, as daytime temperatures above freezing push the sap up maple trees, South Milford Lions in Indiana join employees at Maplewood County Park to collect nature’s sticky-sweet treat. The next month hundreds, some from 140 miles away in Chicago, come to the park to enjoy a Lions’ pancake breakfast. Sausages are cooked on a charcoal grill. Pancakes are drowned in the homegrown maple syrup. Profits go to the park and to Leos from Prairie Heights High School, who help serve the food. A Lift to the Mountain Straddling the Montana-Idaho border in the breathtaking Northern Rockies, Lost Trail Powder Mountain offers great skiing and snowboarding. Hamilton Lions in Montana makes sure youths can get there. The club sponsors a $5 bus ride for the 45-mile drive from Hamilton to the ski resort, which offers a discounted lift ticket in conjunction with the Lions’ transportation. “Kids that normally couldn’t afford to go up can,” Lion Dirk Beyer says. Ten Special Interest Clubs Birds of a feather flock together–as do Lions. Professional Women’s Club El Paso, Texas Chartered in November, the 24-member club includes judges, attorneys, a nurse and a firefighter. The Lions will serve as mentors and role models for disadvantaged women and girls. They’ve already thrown a Christmas party and delivered toiletries for women at a halfway house–the women are confined to the home by judges instead of being imprisoned. The club’s next step is to work with the women on computer skills, resume writing and job interviewing, says President Betsy Castillo, the executive assistant to the CEO of University Medical Center. Interior Entrepreneur Lions Club Fairbanks, Alaska The one-of-a-kind club chartered a year ago to promote local economic development. Members include business owners and experts and aspiring entrepreneurs. Service in this club typically means mentoring an entrepreneur short on experience but eager to get ahead. The club quarterly convenes a panel called the Lion’s Den, modeled on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” On the TV show entrepreneurs nervously face a panel of would-be investors in a do-or-die scenario. The Lion’s Den is much more hospitable. The entrepreneur presents his or her business plan, submits to questions and then receives a detailed “report card” grading the plan as well as the opportunity to meet with mentors. New York City SUNY Optometry Lions Club Peanut butter and jelly. Cheese and crackers. Optometry students and Lions. Of course. Chartered in 2010 at the State University of New York College of Optometry, the university club has 14 members. If Lions are an army of volunteers, these are shock troops. They conduct eye screenings, volunteer at low vision centers, tutor children who are undergoing vision therapy and even host blood drives. Colorado Rocky Mountain Cyber Lions Club Stokes Anderson Jr. had heard time and again the same responses from people asked to join the Lions. “I don’t have time.” Or, “I can’t make it to the meetings on Tuesday night.” So his cyber club, chartered in 2011, sidestepped those concerns by de-emphasizing meetings. Many of its 32 members are busy with children or work. The club meets once monthly. Members can listen in to meetings or stay current on club activities through its website. But like a regular club, the cyber club collects eyeglasses, holds clothing drives and stays busy with a range of service projects. The cyber club rose from the ashes of the Aurora Rocky Mountain Club, a traditional club which disbanded. Charter president Janice Davis and other members of the defunct club helped start the cyber club. Among the members are two flight attendants, who, of course, are perfectly suited to a club grounded neither in time nor space. Washington DC Special Olympics Lions Club Most of the club’s 27 members work at the Special Olympics headquarters. They passionately support Special Olympics as well as other good causes including Camp Merrick, a coat drive and D.C. Central Kitchen, which trains the unemployed for culinary careers. They’ve raised funds for a van for Special Olympics Malawi and for Special Olympics Missouri, whose offices were destroyed by a tornado. Not surprisingly, they also volunteer for Opening Eyes screenings and Special Olympics games. Four athletes are members including Ben Collins, co-president and a Special Olympics employee. Collins is fearless on behalf of his Lions club: he does a Super Polar Plunge in the Chesapeake Bay every hour on the hour for 24 hours. VBA Leo Club California The Village Bible Academy Leo Club is for homeschooled youths, some of whom attend Village Bible Church. “Our club may be small with only 20 members, but our kids are very active and have very big hearts,” says Chardy Lang, the club’s adviser and a Seal Beach Host Lion. The Leos write letters and send cards to veterans, sing at nursing homes, assist on a sailing outing for the blind, make blankets for those with cancer, work at food banks, tutor students and volunteer at summer camps, health fairs and a triathlon. Queens Pride Lions Club New York Formed in 2001, the club for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Lions collects eyeglasses, takes visually and hearing-impaired children to the circus and supports Lions Quest. The club also donates clothes to a group that helps transgender people transition from one sex to the other. San Francisco The Castro, the first official gay Lions club, chartered in 1985. Rachel Lions Club Nevada The population of Rachel is “humans 98, aliens ??.” That’s from the website of this club. So is this: “located on the world’s only extraterrestrial highway.” Remote Rachel is 27 miles from the infamous top secret Air Force Base Area 51, the subject of UFO rumors. None of the Rachel Lions actually live in Rachel, and some are from as far away as Oregon and California. Meetings are organized around district meetings and the convention. This is a club that likes to have a little fun. Ask a member about being a Lion and the standard answer is: “it’s a blast.” St. Paul Diabetes Lions Club Minnesota Founded in 2007 by dietician Marsha Hughes, the club raises awareness of diabetes and prevents the disease through screenings and a speaker’s bureau. Its members include diabetes educators, other health professionals and diabetics. The club played a key role in a $75,000 LCIF grant to District 5-M6 for diabetes education and screening particularly for Spanish-speaking residents and Hmong immigrants. Fairbanks Snowmobile Fun Lions Club Alaska In this cold climate kids still typically play baseball and video games but also ride snowmobiles, or snow machines, as they are known up here. The club caters to that passion by holding snowmobile races for children ages 4 to 12 from January to March. The races are held on the track outside the clubhouse. The children race “120s,” which are small snowmobiles. The races are not just fun. The competition “teaches sportsmanship, selfrespect and confidence. It gives them the responsibility to take care of a physical machine,” says Brady Sause, president, who lives in a town called North Pole (actually located only several miles from Fairbanks). Nearly all his fellow Lions own a snowmobile, and some own two or three. Kids being kids, the races force them to leave their comfort zone, or, in this case, their warm homes. “It’s so cold all winter. You want to stay in. This gets them out in the cold,” says Sause. But even Alaskans draw a line in the snow. “The cut off is 20 below. It’s no fun to race then,” he says. Ten Cool Projects Some projects don’t raise a million dollars or save the world. But they raise a smile, bring people together and make a corner of the world a little better. Wood Shipping Crates | California Open-heart surgery patients in Kurdistan benefit from the handyman skills of Chico Breakfast Lions, who built sturdy crates needed to safely ship microtomes, a sophisticated cutting tool. Lions partnered with Chico-based Project S.A.V.E (Salvage All Valuable Equipment), which recycles medical and dental equipment. Pumpkin Launch | Massachusetts How far can a pumpkin be launched? At least 253 feet. That was the furthest distance at the Mendon Lions Club’s annual Country Fair. The winning team used a trebuchet, a medieval-style catapult. As many as 5,000 people attend the fall fair, a tradition for nearly 40 years. Tractor Rodeo for the Blind | Virginia Guided by a sighted partner, drivers without sight tried to pop as many balloons as possible while navigating a tractor through a figure-eight course. The zany contest was part of the annual Journey for Sight held by Virginia Beach Lions to raise awareness of the challenges and abilities of the blind. Sound like fun? You betcha. Paul Grubb, who drove a Corvette before his blindness, told the Virginian-Pilot, “I haven’t driven in five years. I enjoyed it.” Band Review | California What can be better than a marching band, highstepping and flag-waving as it blasts triumphal tunes? How about 29 marching bands? For 33 years the Visalia Band Review has allowed high school and middle school bands to strut their stuff. Last year more than 2,000 young musicians blasted their horns, banged their drums and marched in precision. Six clubs are responsible: Visalia Breakfast, Charter Oak, Host, Pride, Sequoia and Sunset. Drive-Thru Breakfast | Ontario, Canada It’s never a good idea to skip breakfast, especially on the day Fort Frances Voyageur Lions hold their Drive-Thru Breakfast at Tim Hortons. For a mere $10 donation, hungry drivers get a muffin, coffee and a bonus breakfast bag with gift certificates and prizes donated by local merchants. John Denver Tribute Concert | Colorado Almost heaven, Estes Park. A popular summer resort, the town of 5,000 is the site of the Rocky Mountain National Park headquarters. For a decade, Estes Park Lions have held the tribute concert to the chart-topping singer who adored the state’s wilderness. Dogs Helping Dogs | Pennsylvania It’s all about canines for Lakemont Lions: they are one of the top 10 contributors to Leader Dogs. Member Karlene Hite has a Leader Dog. And the club holds the annual Dogs Helping Dogs fundraiser. Last year 100 dogs and their humans walked a mile in a park. Pledges enable the Lions to further support Leader Dogs. Lottery Calendars | Ontario, Canada If you don’t win today, you may win tomorrow. Or on any of a year’s 365 days. The Amaranth Lions Club, based in Orangeville, sells the calendars, which offer winnings of $50 to $500 on the daily draws. In 2014, $8,700 is up for grabs. Ultimately, the big winners are Dog Guides of Canada, Big Brothers Big Sisters and other good causes. Food Fight | Georgia The official name is the Food 2 Fight Hunger, a contest between Evans Lions and the Salvation Army in raising food for pantries. It’s tough to beat an army, which, of course, marches on its stomach. The Salvation Army collected 2,600 pounds of food, and Lions lost by a few boxes of cereal and a few bags of apples, gathering 2,515 pounds. Triathlon Aid | Venice, Florida It may seem prosaic: handing out water, Gatorade and bananas to competitors in the Revolution 3 Triathlon. But helping athletes, if only the weekend variety, push way beyond their limits stirs the soul. Beverly Flynn of the Venice Lions watched a female runner collapse from heat exhaustion as she approached her aid station. The finish was only a half mile further. An hour later the runner returned to the spot, accompanied by a medic holding her IV, and resumed the race. “To watch her triumphant effort as we cheered her on, this was my ROI–Return on Involvement,” says Flynn (in the background in photo). “As Lions, we have the strength of a team of people ready to run that last half mile to make sure we make it to the finish line.” Ten Cool Names for Projects If getting people to show up is half the battle, these clubs are triumphant. Their projects can attract a crowd simply by virtue of their clever names. Thrilla on the Grilla Streets in downtown Tomahawk, Wisconsin, close down for the Lions’ popular annual barbecue rib contest, a happy gathering of barons of bones and sultans of sauce. One of the judges last year was the chef who concocted Sweet Ray’s barbecue sauce. Romancing the Chrome Who doesn’t love a shiny classic car? Jarrettsville Lions in Maryland host this car show that typically features more than 200 cars and draws 1,700 people. Vendors such as car dealerships and tire stores aren’t hard to entice either. Cork & Flick What goes better with Mel Brooks humor–red or white? Last year Annville-Cleona Lions in Pennsylvania offered a buffet, a wine tasting, a presentation by a vineyard and then a Brooks’ comedy classic at the local cinema. Cubcake Wars “Cupcake Wars” is a reality show on the Food Network. The Cubcake Wars held by Norwin Lions in Pennsylvania pits bakers against one another. Our vote for best competition goes to the Lions. Not only do they stage the contest to raise funds for Kitty Sack, which feeds needy schoolchildren, but they also put an interesting twist on their event. Bakers must use ingredients that start with a L, I, O or N. Pennies for Puppies Canada phased out its penny last year–a golden opportunity for charities. The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides responded with the Pennies for Puppies program to raise $25,000 through donations of 2 million coins. Say Cheese Yes, it’s a cheesy fundraiser, and that’s a good thing. Freeport Lions in Illinois take orders for the food, once described as “milk died and gone to heaven.” The Cheese Market in town provides the cheese. Bango for Books Why play Bingo when you can play Bango? Coon Rapids Lions in Minnesota visit schools and play Bango by displaying flashcards with letters. Students whose tokens form a full row receive a new book. The Semi-Colons Jeff Garton, vice president of the Wilmington Island Lions Club in Georgia, founded a running team with the above name after being diagnosed with colon cancer. While recovering from surgery, his team took part in the Get Your Rear in Gear race to benefit the Colon Cancer Coalition. He also has chaired the club’s gold tournament. That has a plain name: the Wilmington Island Lions Classic. Thirsty Pilgrim Beer Festival Unlike their dour, black-clothed ancestors, Plymouth Lions in Massachusetts enjoy indoor plumbing, fast food drivethroughs and bottled beer. Their September festival includes seasonal offerings such as Autumn Brew and Pumple Drumkin. The club also sells a nifty limited edition stein with a Lions logo. Far be it for the LION to promote drinking beer, even if it was Ben Franklin who asserted that “beer is proof that God loves us.” Of course, the festival is for a good cause, raising funds for food pantries. We’ll drink to that. Pre-Fat Bicycle Race It may be true that biking keeps you slender, but that’s not why Seeley Lions in Wisconsin call their off-road race the Pre-Fat. Not far from them and not long after their event is the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival, the world’s largest gathering of off-road mountain bike riders. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery here in more ways than one. Nearby Hayward Lions hold the Pre-Birkebeiner ski race–the American Birkebeiner is the largest cross-country ski marathon in North America.
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