Flags Fly High When a project starts small and grows big, Lions know they’re doing something— or maybe everything—right. That’s what happened when Norwalk Lions in California first gave out a few small American flags in the early 1970s to children. The flags were meant to inspire pride and understanding about how their nation came to be. The number of flags now distributed stands at 770. “The kids are really excited, but they’re not the only ones. So are their parents and staff. This program is just one of our best times as Lions,” says Manuel Sanchez, a member since 2009. Lions not only present the children with flags, but also speak to them about their country’s hard-fought independence and history. Sanchez estimates that at least 50 percent of Lions’ projects focus on the community’s children. The club sponsors the peace poster contest in elementary schools, supports the annual high school student speaker contest and youth sports, awards scholarships and donates to community services for blind and disabled children. Relieving Hunger One Sandwich at a Time Bill Munck, a Frostburg Lion, says that his club in western Maryland’s District 22 W is located in some of the most beautiful country he’s ever seen. “It’s home to ski resorts, has outstanding boating and fishing and beautiful mountain vistas.” But the district has another distinction besides natural beauty, he points out: “It contains Allegany County, the second poorest county in Maryland.” “It used to be a thriving area with coal mines and industry. Now it lacks both,” Munck explains. He and his wife, Susan, also a Lion, were developing a program in their church to feed children on summer break when they didn’t receive regular school meals. After 16 months, the program grew to a partnership of area Lions, Rotarians, churches and other local organizations. With $10,000 and 75 volunteers, the Summer Lunch Box program was established in 2013. Volunteers prepared and packed nearly 1,500 lunches and distributed them at two different sites, including a daycare center for low-income families. The program fed 224 children last year. Volunteers also gave each child school supplies at the end of summer to begin the new school year. “We expect at least a 25 percent increase in the number of children served in 2015,” says Susan Munck. Lunches now include yogurt, milk and more fresh fruit along with sandwiches. In addition to school supplies, Frostburg Lions are now donating reading materials and activity books for the children. Alaskan Lions Donate E-readers to El Salvador When Fairbanks Host Lion John “Bennie” Benevento made a suggestion about how Lions could help people in rural El Salvador, Tony Gasbarro says, “The idea just hit me like a ton of bricks.” Gasbarro served in the Peace Corps there for two years in the late 1990s and still returns yearly to help the people. He spends about a month helping to administer a scholarship program for students in poor, rural areas. Benevento suggested Lions donate e-readers to help students study and promote reading by adults in El Salvador. “It seemed like such a practical idea. I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it,” admits Gasbarro. “I read almost every book on a Kindle,” says Benevento. “I load each one we send to El Salvador with 1,000 to 2,000 public domain books in Spanish that I find online at Amazon.” Textbooks can be downloaded by students attending universities, and kept for a semester at a time. Fairbanks Host Lions pay $70 for each e-reader. Lions have sent 20 devices to El Salvador and are arranging for another 25 to be sent with Gasbarro on his next trip in the fall. The devices are shared among several communities. “The nearest library for the village is about 20 miles away, so there’s very little access to books for kids. The town leader, who’s like a mayor, keeps the e-readers and gives them out to students as they want them,” Benevento explains. When readers complete a book, they return it to be checked out by another person in the village. While the books are primarily for students in the scholarship program, family members read them, too. “The purpose of the e-reader program is to make students appreciate the world of books and develop a ‘habito de la lectura,’ or reading habit. I frequently tell them that there are three things they can do in life to guarantee success—read, read and read,” says Gasbarro. Summer or Winter, Lions Offer Lakeshore Fun Camping out on the shores of Deep Creek Lake in Maryland as guests of Lions, four blind children and their families enjoyed five days of unfettered fun last July. For 30 years, Deep Creek Lake Lions have sponsored both summer and winter activities for small groups of blind children from throughout the state. Two years ago, the club partnered with Boy Scout Troop 49 of Morgantown, West Virginia, about 50 miles away. Lion Chris Nichols, assistant scoutmaster of the troop, explains the long distance connection: “I was in the Lions club first, then ‘married into’ the Scouts. My stepson, Alex, is one of the guides.” The Scouts serve as sighted guides for the blind children and earn service hours required for advancement. They also help Lions set up, maintain and break down the campsite. Lions provide their own boats to take campers around the lake, and a local marine service donates a large towable tube for the group to use. “You can tell by the look on some of the campers’ faces that they’re not sure how it’s going to work out when we first get them on that tube,” says Lion Craig Hunter, who uses his pontoon boat to tow them. “And then they all laugh when the tube gets up to speed.” Camper Christian Howard, who Nichols says was quiet for most of the week, became his most animated when he dangled his bare feet in a fast-moving river flowing through the park. “It feels like a massage on my feet!” he yelled. Water World No Longer a Mystery Getting up close and personal with tadpoles, fish and an assortment of tiny critters living in lake water is a teachable moment. For children who participated in a water habitat study sponsored by the Chequamegon Lions Club in northwestern Wisconsin, there were many teachable moments. It was natural for Lions to do so since many of the 43 members of the club are, in fact, retired teachers. “Teachers never stop teaching, even in retirement,” says Jan Stapleton. The event at the Chippewa Flowage, the state’s third-largest lake in the center of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, drew 150 third-graders from Hayward-area schools. Lion Case Mazik and students collected water samples from the lake and then identified all of the small water creatures they could by using magnifying glasses and microscopes. There were 10 learning stations set up, all hands-on, where children were able to hold small water creatures, take and test water samples, check water clarity, make fish prints, tie knots and play fish identification games. Children also learned about soil erosion, invasive species and lakeshore management. Each classroom recorded its day on digital cameras donated by Lions. The photos were later used in class to help students practice their writing skills by describing what they learned. The first water study project three years ago was organized by retired teacher and Lion Bob Kondrasek in 2011 in memory of club member Bruce Meyers, a lifelong educator with a passion for the environment. “I want to teach kids about the importance of our earth and its natural resources,” Kondrasek explains. “I think that if you teach kids to care about our natural resources, they’ll just naturally learn to care about each other.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Service/2007899/258674/article.html.