Jennifer Gilbert Gebhardt 2014-09-10 07:10:24
Honoring the Lionhearted Community Award Program Spurs Membership In Mississippi, a Head Start teacher has been dedicated to helping children for 19 years. Another community member worked tirelessly to build an animal shelter in Pike County. A police officer has played a key role in disaster relief for Biloxi. A volunteer has been devoted to diabetes prevention and management throughout the Gulf Coast. What do they all have in common? They have hearts of a Lion. Initiated by Past 30 S District Governor Dwain Simpson, the “Heart of a Lion” award program recognizes the contributions of non-Lion community members who epitomize the ways of Lionism. While a bighearted way to honor individuals whose work often goes unrecognized, the program has turned out to have some big-time benefits for clubs. “It’s a win-win project. Not only do we get acquainted with other community leaders and their projects—which can bring about new service project ideas and partnerships— but we have the opportunity to build awareness of Lions and gain new members who are a natural fit,” says Simpson, a Diamondhead Lion. After being selected by clubs and honored with an awards ceremony, award recipients don’t receive a hard sell for membership. Rather than being asked to join, honorees usually become curious about the work of Lions and are won over once they learn what Lions are all about. “I had always thought that we could gain more members if only people actually knew what Lions stood for and the work we do. By being recognized as sharing the spirit of Lions, people learn about us and may want to join,” says Simpson. Simpson’s hunch was right. After presenting more than 70 Heart of a Lion award certificates in the district over the past couple of years, the resulting new membership count is at about 40. And even if award recipients don’t join, they often become enthusiastic allies of the Lions. Shellie Marengo Moses received the honor in 2013 for her work as the south Mississippi director of Make-A-Wish. Working singlehandedly in 17 counties, Moses has coordinated more than 500 wishes for ill children. “I was completely shocked and tremendously honored that I had been selected for the award. For an organization to take the time to learn about others who serve and give back is so heartwarming,” says Moses. Moses was taken aback with a lovely awards ceremony at a yacht club, but she was more surprised at who was in attendance. “The Lions had done some research and found out how very close I am to my family. To my surprise, they were there at the ceremony,” beams Moses. Although she cannot commit to joining now, Moses has become an unofficial Lion. “I have supported several Lions causes, and I’m always happy to help with projects in any way I can.” No matter the membership outcome, this feel-good program has an intrinsic value that hits close to home for many Lions. Simpson explains: “I have had many award recipients thank me, some very emotionally, for honoring them. Often volunteers and dedicated community members don’t think they will ever be recognized for their important contributions.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Recruiting+Members/1808317/224775/article.html.