Lions Spark Love of Reading Greensboro Hamilton Lakes Lion Ron McKinney says that his North Carolina club wanted to maximize the number of children they could help learn to read at a school in the Cottage Grove community, a historically impoverished area in east Greensboro. Residents, volunteers and community activists are working hard to revitalize the area. “We have sweet kids,” says Thyais Maxfield, principal of Hampton Elementary School. But those sweet children needed some help. Their reading skills were low and books were in short supply. The path to partnering with two other organizations was smooth once Lions realized that they could all do more for students by working together. By including Reading is Fundamental (RIF) and Christ United Methodist Women (UMW) in the project, Lions were able to donate books and a reading action plan to the school. Lions knew they could give the children books, but that wasn’t enough to improve reading skills. A plan had to be in place to guide them. The UMW purchased texts aligned with the curriculum to help students learn to read. The group also provided manuals for teachers to integrate new skills into their lesson plans. Lions donated $3,200 to buy 900 new books and fill RIF book bags with related learning activities. McKinney says Lions did more than simply spark a passion for reading: “We also collaborated to address the children’s overall needs, including food pantry donations, playground equipment and school beautification projects. People donated furniture to the Parent Resource Center and gave more books to the children along with school supplies and student uniforms.” Lions connected the school’s reading specialist with another agency for even more assistance. Hampton Elementary received two grants to engage parents in reading efforts and to boost the professional development of teachers. The grants also include funds for reading enrichment activities. Volunteers, many of them Lions, now serve as “reading buddies” for children at the school. Raising Canine Companions Before he retired, California Lion Jay Matsler taught career technical education and life skills such as getting a job and managing a checkbook or credit card to at-risk youth. There was often an extra member of the class snoozing at his feet. Matsler, a Murrieta Lion, is one of the club’s several puppy raisers who’ve raised 38 puppies for the Lions Project for Canine Companions for Independence (LPCCI) since 1998. Bringing a puppy to class helped socialize the dog and engage the kids. “Being a puppy raiser means educating the public on what a service dog is, and how to approach a person with a service dog,” he explains. Disneyland is the happiest place on earth for puppies, too, as Fiji takes a ride on the teacups with Murrieta Lion Judy Buehler. The Murrieta club is unusually active in puppy raising. Matsler and Lion Jon Hanson are co-raising a puppy named Fiji with Lion Judy Buehler. The two other puppy raisers in the club are Jim and Gayle Batchelor. Tonia Capps is on the puppy-raiser committee, but she hasn’t raised a dog. She’s still deeply involved in the club’s efforts to provide service animals. “I’m too old to take care of a 50-pound dog,” says Capps, 79. “I have a little 10-pound poodle.” Like others in the 25- member club, she often accompanies the puppies and their raisers when they visit schools, nursing homes or malls for public outings. Puppy raisers bring the dogs into their homes at 7 to 8 weeks and keep them until they’re ready to train with their human partners 18 months later. Members regularly have the puppies and their raisers to their homes to help socialize them, too. “These dogs are well-trained, but they need to experience other people and places,” Capps points out. Some of the puppies suffer from separation anxiety because they’re used to only one family, which can get them released from CCI. “Only about 30 percent of the puppies make it all the way through the program,” says Matsler. Puppy raisers volunteer to train the dogs, pay for food and all veterinary services. Lions not only raise puppies, they also raise funds for and support CCI by catering meals for every graduating class at the Oceanside facility. “We’ve named puppies with every letter of the alphabet, from Adrienne to Failine, Parsley to Zuben,” says Matsler. “It’s really tough when the puppies leave us.” Vinny Fratalia leans out to drop golf balls onto the ground for the Ball Drop contest. Golf Balls Score Funds When golf balls rained down from the sky, they raised money—not flowers— for Tewksbury Lions in Massachusetts, who sponsored their first golf ball drop and made $3,600. The contest was held immediately after the club’s 27th golf tournament that drew nearly 100 players. The balls were dispersed from a helicopter at a nearby farm so there was no danger of players on the golf course being struck by errant balls. Between the ball drop and tournament, Lions made $10,000. Each ball was numbered and sold for $10, and the winner took home a $1,000 prize. The idea of Lion Jerry Selissen, the golf ball drop added some excitement from the skies, but none of the balls actually made it into the cup dug into a field. “The winner’s ball was just two or three inches from the hole,” says Selissen, who with other Lions waited some distance away during the drop. A friend of his, Vinny Fratalia, leaned out to drop the balls while strapped into the helicopter hovering a few hundred feet in the air. The helicopter, owned and operated by businessman Marc Ginsburg, was donated to help Lions raise funds to pay for vision and hearing needs and help support a food pantry and other charitable projects. “Everybody wanted in on the drop,” he says. A new member, Selissen says he’s “thrilled to be a part of this club.” Already actively serving his community in various capacities, he says it was a natural progression for him to join the Tewksbury Lions. “They do so much for everybody here. There’s actually a Lions connection that goes way back in our community. Annie Sullivan once lived in and taught in Tewksbury.” A life-sized, bronze sculpture of her and her most famous student, Helen Keller, stands near the Tewksbury town hall. The Play’s the Thing When New Philadelphia Lions in Ohio want to make a dramatic impact, they don’t have to take to the stage. No acting skills required—all they need are some tools in their hands. “I don’t think any of our Lions have stage production experience, but they’re definitely a handy bunch with big hearts,” points out Angela Stingel. An outdoor theater production company asked Lions for their assistance in rehabbing its storage building. Lions fixed up the barn-sized facility, home to the drama troupe’s props and equipment, using only their know-how and only about $600 in materials. They not only added new siding to protect its interior from the elements, but also built storage bins and shelving inside to safely store play gear. Several Lions have served on the board of trustees since the show started running. The Schoenbrunn Amphitheatrer produces Ohio’s longest-running outdoor play, “Trumpet in the Land,” which just completed its 46th year. Written by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Paul Green, it tells the story of David Zeisberger and his Christian Indian followers. They tried to preserve peace in 1772 in the heart of the Ohio wilderness as the Revolutionary War violence spread. Lions readily helped because they believe the outdoor drama is an important part of the local economy and telling of the state’s history. Lions (from left) Ward Holdsworth, Ken Sopher and Neil Rupe work on the storage building. To learn about Ohio’s history, elementary schools routinely bring students to the amphitheater located in Schoenbrunn Village. “The story is told in a beautiful natural setting near where the actual events took place,” says Ward Holdsworth. “The play has beautiful horses, brilliant fire dances, authentic-looking costumes and even battle pyrotechnics. It’s one of our area’s biggest tourist attractions.”
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