Jay Copp 2014-08-12 15:27:03
In truth, a seemingly simple act of service can take days, weeks and even months of planning. But often the end result is a great day of selfless giving and joyful receiving. Even when not handing over a tangible item, Lions always leave a little something behind: a glad heart, a revived spirit or a precious memory of being cared about. New Year, Same Old Fun Bernice Fanning, 78, enjoys the food, games, companionship–and little moments of levity that always seem to occur at the annual New Year’s Eve celebration for seniors of the Upland Lions in Indiana. This year a spirited 85-year-old woman sprang to her feet and danced in place each time the band began another song. Then she shimmied across the room and joined a couple who were dancing. After a few moments the wife graciously backed off and let her dance along with her husband. “It’s the little things like that. They feel free,” says Fanning. Nearly 70 seniors attended the Dec. 31 party in the Lions clubhouse in tiny Upland, population 2,500. Begun five years ago, the event is an offshoot of the club’s weekly luncheon, usually attended by 120 or so seniors. The weekly gatherings often are holiday-themed and include contests such as frog jumping (played with dice) and soap box derby car races. About 10 Lions work each get-together, and a friendly familiarity exists among the Lions and seniors. Recalls Lion Cindy Wright (on right in photo with Shirley Fisher), “They said, well, we ought to have a New Year’s Eve party. I said, ‘Do you think you can make it to midnight?’” All joking aside, the luncheons and parties allow the seniors to leave their homes and comfort zones. “I’m stopped all the time in the store by their kids. ‘I’m so glad my mother has a place to go,’” says Wright, 62. “When you get older, you can have nothing to talk about. Now when they see their kids, they can say, ‘I learned how to play cornhole. I played ladder ball.’” Fanning, a widow, raised five children with her husband. Now she’s alone in her nine-room home. But all that doesn’t mean she can’t, at least once a year, show her children a thing or two about stepping out and having fun. “I don’t think any of them made it to midnight,” she says. A Full-Service Bookbike, Lions-style What good is a book if you can’t read it? Lions and the Pima County Library in Arizona took a good idea and made it better by stocking the library’s nifty Bookbike with reading glasses. The glasses are free just like the books. A librarian pedals the three-wheeled bike with bookshelves built into its mounted box to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, senior centers and other venues where people are less likely to frequent libraries. The demand for the reading glasses was so high that the library now stocks its 24 branches in and around Tucson with reading glasses. More than 4,000 reading glasses have been handed out through the Bookbike and at the branches. “We can’t keep up with the demand,” says Vice District Governor Barbara Daily (in photo with her husband, Lion Don), director of operations for the Arizona Lions Eyeglass Recycling Terminal. From 10 to 15 percent of the glasses received by the recycling center are reading glasses. Lions clubs also receive reading glasses by partnering with a pharmacy in asking customers to donate them. The free glasses are much welcomed. “Some people really need to watch their pennies and don’t have extra money,” says Daily. Librarian Karen Greene, who first proposed the Bookbike and then saw a need for the glasses, has heard or been told by other librarians stories of grateful patrons: from the person who needed them for a job interview and a person who had not read in 15 years to the person who could not stop loudly and repeatedly proclaiming his wonder at being able to read again to the person in disbelief the glasses were gratis. “He said, ‘Really, how much do I owe you?’ He was floored,” says Greene, who is now a Lion. Steps Toward Independence One small step for a boy–one giant leap toward self-reliance. Three clubs in Winona, Minnesota, held a pancake breakfast last winter to raise funds for a developmental stairs/bridge. Visually impaired Adam Judge (pictured), 5, and sighted students at the Goodview Community Kids Preschool practice their balance and coordination on the donated wooden structure. “It’s been wonderful in helping Adam have better balance on steps,” says Alyssa Lovas, his mother. Adam was diagnosed with retinal degenerative disease a year ago. “We knew something was different with his vision when he was two, but doctors couldn’t see anything until last year,” says Lovas. He will be a kindergartner at the Minnesota Academy for the Blind this month. “Adam is beyond excited about going to the school. He talks about it all the time,” says Lovas. The Winona, Winona Rivertown and Sunset Lions clubs held the breakfast. Lions have gotten to know and like Adam. “He’s such a neat kid,” says Past District Governor Bob Andraschko of the Sunset club. “He just so pleasant and gracious. He really appreciates what others do for him. Yet he wants to do it himself.” Care Bears in Texas “Big Dawg,” a Lion, used bears to soothe children on the verge of whimpering like lambs. Reggie Yearwood and several other Odessa Grandview Lions in Texas delivered two dozen stuffed bears to children at two hospitals a week before Christmas. The older children happily pressed the plush toys to their cheeks. “It’s amazing what a little teddy bear can do. Once they are in their arms they hug them. ‘This is mine. Don’t touch,’” recounts Yearwood, 84, a retired county sheriff whose nickname dates from his days as a military policeman. Yearwood gave one of the bears to an 18-day-old baby girl (photo). An older girl daringly asked for a second bear. “I told her we need them for the other kids. So she said, ‘If you have any left over, can I have another?’” says Yearwood, a past president. Lions had 48 bears to give away because Oscar Dominguez, past president, happened to see them on display at an Aeropostale clothing store. The store manager told him they were not for sale but would be given to a charity to distribute. “Have you heard of Lions clubs?” Dominguez asked her. “She said no,” recalls Yearwood, picking up the story. “So he proceeded to tell her about us, and she said, ‘I’ll give them all to you.’” President Stanley Prather saw to it that the extra bears went to special education students. Brush With Service Sometimes in serving, you get more than you bargained for. Chalk it up as a welcomed learning experience. “I thought we would paint a couple of hydrants. We were out there all day in the hot sun,” says a smiling Justin Hurn, 17, of his Leo club’s project. The Raceland Leos in Kentucky painted more than a dozen hydrants in town. Another surprise to the project was that it required brushes. “I thought it would be spray paint,” says a sheepish Justin, whose father, Jeff, is president of the Raceland Lions and the Leo adviser. Like father, like son– Justin serves as Leo president. “I tell the parents they ought to see their meetings. They’re run like ours,” says the elder Hurn. “I think it [being a Leo] has helped Justin a lot. It’s matured him.” Justin works part-time five days week as a store clerk in addition to attending school and serving as a Leo. But he is undaunted about his future plans. “I’ll be a Lion. I like to help people,” he says. Beauty After Tragedy After a disaster came a rebirth. Lions from throughout Missouri descended on Joplin on “planting day” to beautify the new Irving Elementary. Lions planted 45 trees and 95 shrubs as well as nurtured the notion in impressionable minds that starting anew and rising from disaster can be as inevitable as spring. The school’s landscape will “grow and blossom and mature each year just like the thousands of children at Irving,” says Past District Governor Debbie Cantrell. Irving School was one of five schools destroyed by a tornado that killed 161 people in 2011. The new school is located at the former site of St. John’s Regional Medical Center, also a tornado casualty. (The hospital donated the land for the school, and a new hospital was built nearby.) The connection of Lions with Irving Elementary extends far beyond the trees and shrubs. Lions adopted 10 classrooms; each received $1,000 for supplies. Kindergarten teacher Susan Moore also received flowers, given to her by Kevin Cantrell (photo), accompanied by his wife, Debbie, and Superintendent C.J. Huff, who later gratefully spoke at the District 26 M6 convention. Planting day was a barrel of fun: just ask Andrew (photo), son of Lion Cathy Simpson and a helper (kid-style) of Past District Governor Jerry Young. Jim Meyers of the El Dorado Springs Lions Club is in the background. Real, Real Low Prices Talk about one-stop shopping. Disadvantaged children in south Florida get free school clothes, shoes, school supplies and often vision and diabetes screening at one of seven participating Wal-Marts. About 55 Lions clubs raise $37,500 for 750 students for a $50 shopping spree supervised by Lions. Don’t think it’s only the children who are thrilled. “I’d say 95 percent of our club is there. It’s such an invigorating experience. The kids are so happy you want to help them,” says Dorothy Letakis of the South Florida Asian American Lions Club. Lions such as Annie Nanowsky (photo), charter president of the South Florida club, gladly help the children decide what to buy and how to budget their funds. Other groups taking part include Kiwanis, which gives away backpacks. But for 11 years Lions have taken the lead; the current project chair is Kathy Katerman of the Aventura-North Miami Beach Lions. Lions don’t miss a trick: waiting parents are treated to a video or a talk about Lions. About 20 computers refurbished by Lions are raffled off. The best part is when a Lion happens to encounter a child seen the year before. “They’ll hug you or tell you a story,” says Letakis. Animal Magnetism Tutors have tails in central California, and Lions have patience and a love of reading. Once a week Roxy, a white poodle, accompanies owner Eva McAnulty to the Selma Library in the San Joaquin Valley. “Roxy knows that when she puts on her Therapy Dog bandana and gets all prettified, it’s time to go to work,” says McAnulty. Children who struggle to read aloud gain confidence and improve their reading skills thanks to the non-judgmental presence of reading dogs, according to studies. A Selma Central Valley Lion, McAnulty also belongs to the Central Valley Lioness Club, which pays for some of the veterinarian bills and other expenses. Diego Avala (in photo with McAnulty), 7, read to Roxy and wants to do it again. “I’ll go back. Her fur was soft,” he says. Editor’s note: Roxy was put to sleep in May because of complications from diabetes. Digital LION What kinds of service did Lions perform in 1923 just a few years after Lions began? How about in 1951 in the post-war era as Lions Clubs grew rapidly? Find out at lionmagazine.org.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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