JUNE 7, 1917 1917 Melvin Jones convenes representatives from 27 businessmen’s clubs at a Chicago hotel. They agree to unite and vote on a name: the Association of Lions Clubs. Jones had turned the businessman’s club’s model on its head: instead of angling for business, Lions will focus on community service. 1920: Lions Clubs becomes international by chartering a club in Windsor, Canada. One of its first projects is a swim outing in a river for underprivileged boys. Men of rectitude, the Lions let it be known that “only boys with a note from their teachers” would be allowed to attend. 1925 1925: During the international convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, Helen Keller beseeches Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” Her eloquent plea provides Lions with their primary mission. 1930 1930: Lion George Bonham paints a cane white with a wide red band to aid the visually impaired after he witnesses a blind man having trouble crossing a street. Clubs vigorously promote white canes, and by 1956 every state has passed white cane safety laws giving the blind the right-of-way. 1935 1935: Talking books for the blind are created, and Lions help distribute the books and machines. 1939 1939: After a fellow Lion is not able to enroll in the only U. S. school for guide dogs, members of the Detroit Uptown Lions Club start their own. Leader Dogs for the Blind popularizes guide dogs worldwide. To provide an organized baseball program for children, Carl Stotz of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, soon to be a Lion, appeals for support from Lions clubs and others. Clubs help fuel the explosive growth of Little League by sponsoring teams and contributing funds, labor and materials. 1945 1945: The world’s second eye bank, the Buffalo Eye Bank, is founded by the Buffalo Lions Club. Today, most eye banks are Lions-sponsored. Lions assist in drafting the United Nations Charter, starting a lasting bond with the U.N. 1947: Lions celebrate the association’s 30th anniversary in New York City. Lions Clubs now is the world’s largest service club group with 324,690 members in 19 nations. 1954 1954: After an international contest among Lions, an official motto is chosen: “We Serve.” The motto is submitted by Lion D. A. Stevenson of Font Hill, Ontario, Canada. Eleven Lions actually submit that motto, but Stevenson’s arrived first. 1957 1957: The first Leo club begins in Abington, Pennsylvania, after Bill Graver asks his father, “Why isn’t there a Lions-sponsored service club for young people?” 1961: Melvin Jones, the Lions’ founder and longtime secretary general of the association, dies at age 82. 1968: The Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) is established. 1971 1971: After decades in downtown Chicago, Lions Clubs International moves to its fourth and final location in Oak Brook, Illinois, 15 miles west of the city. 1986: Mother Teresa accepts the Lions Humanitarian Award. She urges Lions to love: “The most terrible poverty is being unloved and having no one to care for you.” 1987: The association amends its bylaws and invites women to become members. 1989: The Lions International Peace Poster Contest begins. Mustapha El Tawokji from war-torn Beirut, Lebanon, wins first prize. 1990: SightFirst is launched to curtail blindness. Fifteen years later, US$182 million had been raised for 758 projects in 89 countries. 1995 1995: LCIF partners with The Carter Center, led by former U.S. president and Lion Jimmy Carter, to curtail river blindness in Africa and Latin America. 2002: Lions charter two clubs in China, the nation’s first voluntary membership group since the 1950s. 2004: After a devastating earthquake and tsunami in South Asia, Lions mobilize more than US$15 million to rebuild homes, schools and orphanages in five nations. 2005: Past President Dr. Tae-Sup Lee of Korea launches Campaign SightFirst II at the international convention in Hong Kong. Within three years Lions exceed their goal and raise US$205 million. 2010: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation contributes US$5 million to the One Shot: One Life campaign, and Lions raise more than US$10 million to support measles efforts over the next two years. AUGUST 2016 Lions meet their goal and serve their 100th million person in two years through the Centennial Service Challenge.
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