BIG IMPACT WITH LIONS CLUB SERVICE PROJECTS Hands On and Heads Down– Lions Plot a Community Garden Brookfield Lions in Connecticut wanted to put a different spin on community service. Dick Cronin says that members sought a project that served the land as well as its citizens. Lions were looking for a “hands on” project, but even they may not have known just how hands-on it was going to be after Dave Keefe came up with an idea. He suggested a community garden located on the Gurski Farm, a historic New England property purchased by the town in 2002. The beauty of a community garden, Keefe told Lions, is that it “attracts many different people—from condo owners, senior citizens, Boy Scouts working on merit badges and people looking to socialize.” In these tough economic times, Lions strongly believe that people will benefit from growing their own small crops of vegetables. Mobilization was immediate. They soon realized, though, that they needed a tool shed in which to keep donated tools. Converting the farm’s old chicken coop into a storage facility was an easy solution. What they didn’t anticipate was how much hard work was in store for them. After a crew spread mulch on the soil they’d just tilled, Cronin says with a laugh, “We had to supply our own muscle liniment.” Each of the 35 plots is 8 x 14 feet with four-foot walking paths running between plots for easy access. Donated shovels, rakes and hand tools were painted “an awful color” so they could be easily identified and “hopefully not walk away,” says Cronin. While believing in the “build it and they will come” theory, Lions still had some practical concerns. “The only problem with that is if they don’t know where it’s at, how are they going to get there?” A good publicity campaign was the key. There were multiple showings of a promotional television show on cable and the town’s educational channel, and the community was blanketed with announcements. Church bulletins, library, senior center, Web sites and Brookfield’s recreation department all carried information about the garden. Plots are assigned on a first come, first served basis. There is a $20 fee for each application because “it was felt that if nothing was charged, the people might treat the land in the same way. However, if they invested some money, they might treat the program with seriousness,” Cronin explains. Tony Licursi, a member with extensive gardening experience, was appointed “garden captain.” It’s a good thing, too, because none of the garden applicants had much experience, according to Keefe, who explains that many gardeners view it as an “educational process” for their children. Licursi serves as an on-site monitor and mediator if needed. His expertise enables him to answer questions about fertilizer application and suitable crops. He gives advice to novice gardeners who can’t decide what to grow and where to locate plants for maximum growth. Vegetables and flowers are acceptable, but invasive plants with vines, such as pumpkins and cucumbers, are not. Lions encourage organic gardening and hand-watering the plots for water conservation. The farm may be a relic from colonial days, but it has helped Lions dig deep to find a new way to serve their community. Sight is Beautiful, Indeed A vacant storefront in a popular mall served as the staging area for a vision and hearing screening test sponsored by District 50 Lions in Hawaii. A total of 85 adults and 25 children participated in the free service effort of Hawaii Kai, Kaimuki, Koko Head and Manoa Waioli Lions. Additionally, Lions cleaned and repaired several hundred pairs of eyeglasses for shipment to people in need. To promote their “Sight is Beautiful” program, eight elementary schools submitted posters and the winning entry from each school was on display at the mall. Lions volunteered information about sight conservation as shoppers stopped to look over students’ artwork. Lions Serve … Lunch Lions are well known for many things, but gourmet cooking has not been one of them—until now. A group of California Lions are cooking up some pretty special meals for the graduates of Canine Companions for Independence, their families and those who raise the puppies for 12 to 18 months. CCI provides highly trained assistance dogs for people with disabilities other than blindness. Since the 1970s, Lions have supported the non-profit organization by raising puppies, serving as caretakers and donating $2.5 million to CCI. They provide most of their assistance through the Lions Project for Canine Companions for Independence (LPCCI), a foundation established by California Lions in 1983. The Roseland Lions Club of Santa Rosa volunteered to provide lunch for 12 CCI graduates in 2001, serving hot dogs and basic fare. Each year since has seen the meals become more fanciful as Roseland Lions have been joined by the Santa Rosa Lioness Club and members of the Gravenstein, Santa Rosa Host, Windsor, Petaluma 7-11 and Host, Montgomery Village, Sausalito and San Jose Scales of Justice Lions Clubs. The “Lions Lunches” project has grown to include not only the four graduating classes each year but also special hearing classes and seminars for returning graduates. Some of the meals Lions prepare are gourmet seafood salads and lavish chicken, beef and pasta meals. One recent luncheon catered to 130 people and featured a sumptuous buffet. LPCCI administrator Lucille Hynes says that each Lions club seems to put on their best display of gastronomical showmanship. The results are spectacular, she says proudly, “proving that competition is always healthy.” Lions do their best to serve, indeed, even if it’s with a spoon.
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