Veterans Park in Michigan Proudly Shines Again For decades, since dedicated to World War I veterans in 1934, Veterans Memorial Park in Muskegon was proudly described as “Michigan’s most beautiful mile.” But the park deteriorated over time, and veterans were not happy. “Probably about 70 percent of us are vets,” Dennis Cobler says of his 70-member club, the Muskegon Northside Lions. The oldest member is Phil Margules, wounded as an 18-year-old in the Battle of the Bulge. A Vietnam veteran, Cobler lost three cousins in that war. “My father, stepfather and fatherin- law are all World War II vets. That park, and what it represents, is sacred,” says Cobler, a past international director. Lions cut down and hauled away invasive cattails from the shoreline of Veterans Memorial Park. Organizing a $4 million park rehab isn’t easy. “It’s all about partnerships— and what seems like a few hundred permits,” Cobler says. Lions worked with federal, state and local agencies and another community group. The club raised nearly $30,000 to wire electricity and also relied on the volunteer help of retired members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and apprentices, says Lion Ed Weessies. Lions paid for an architect to redesign the park. A big problem was that an invasive species of cattails had invaded the Muskegon Lake shoreline in the park. Lions quickly got to work cutting them down. “It was really hard work, but we put on our waders and got in there,” says Cobler. All the efforts paid off. Restored to its former glory, the park was rededicated last November to celebrate Veterans Day. The work is not finished. A $2.3 million grant to restore the habitat for fish and wildlife on 15 acres is helping restore the shoreline, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Looking to invite veterans to join your club? Then check out the Lions Involve a Veteran Program today! Unclaimed but Not Unwanted So what happens to all those eyeglasses left on airplanes? They often end up on the noses of the needy in Mexico and other impoverished nations, thanks to an enterprising Lions club in Alabama. Scottsboro, Alabama, is home to the Unclaimed Baggage Center, a 40,000-square-foot store filled with just about anything airlines can’t reunite with owners after a 90-day search. That includes books, cameras, smart phones, jewelry, designer wedding dresses and golf clubs. But you won’t find eyeglasses. The center donates them to the Scottsboro Lions. About 50,000 pairs of glasses are donated to the club each year. Carol Minnich enjoys the affection of Flash, a guide dog, as his owner plays hockey. The club dutifully stores them in a church basement before sorting and boxing them for delivery to the Moody Lions Club on the outskirts of Birmingham. Moody Lions then clean and scan the glasses by prescription for shipment to Eufaula Lions for their annual eyeglass mission to Mexico, where approximately 15,000 glasses are fitted to patients by more than 30 Lions and volunteers. “Reading glasses are considered extremely valuable there, where so many people make their living by creating, sewing or assembling small items for sale,” says Alex Moore, a Scottsboro Lion. “All patients are also given a pair of sunglasses to wear in the tropical sun.” Other glasses are given for overseas church and other mission trips, and approximately 30,000 eyeglasses go to the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis for use by student charity programs. “We do an awful lot of good in Alabama with those lost glasses,” Moore says. Watching the Dog— Not the Puck Canadian Carol Minnich admits she doesn’t know much about hockey. But there she was in Toronto at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (formerly known as Maple Leaf Gardens) as hockey players rushed about the rink. She was watching—a guide dog. Lions look after the guide dogs of players competing in the annual Canadian Blind Hockey Tournament sponsored by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. They sit with the dogs, feed them and sometimes quickly take them outside when noise bothers the dogs. Sometimes it’s the cheering, and sometimes it’s the noisy puck, which rattles so the players can track it. The dog sitters will watch the games when they can. “What a clean game these athletes play,” says Slava Tsvetkov, the Toronto Central Lion who organized the volunteering. “ No gloves on the ice to settle a score, no fist fighting—just clean hockey and good sportsmanship.” Lions from at least six clubs in district A 711 have volunteered. “The dogs seemed happy to be with us,” says Minnich. “But when their owners came to get them, some would howl. Mostly they’d jump around and wag their tails.” Want to learn more about guide dogs? Check out Best Friends, a Lions Touchstone Story on lions100.org. A One-Stop Shop for Social Services Hundreds of homeless and low-income people show up for the one-day delivery of social services at a community center in Bremerton, Washington. They come for clothing, flu shots, medication vouchers and more. The most popular services are haircuts—and eye exams. The latter are courtesy of Lions in District 19. The Lions have been part of Project Connect since 2010. North Kitsap High School Leos in Washington pack toiletries and necessities to be donated by Lions to those in need at Project Connect. Last year dozens of Lions worked alongside eight doctors from VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services for Humanity) to dispense reading glasses and sunglasses. The Northwest Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center also assisted. Lions have screened more than 800 people and handed out more than 600 eyeglasses since being involved, says Roland Arper of the Silverdale Lions. Lions also dispense bags of new toiletries put together by several Leo clubs. Arper has seen people moved to tears for the help they receive from Lions. But recipients aren’t the only ones whose lives are touched by the day of service. “I often get notes back from Lions who tell me what a heartwarming experience it was for them to be involved that day,” he says.
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