POUNDED BY TORRENTIAL RAIN, KINGSTREE FLOODED AS NEVER BEFORE. RESIDENTS WHOSE HOMES WERE DELUGED EVACUATED TO FOUR EMERGENCY SHELTERS IN THE SMALL SOUTH CAROLINA TOWN. THE DAMAGE TO CARS AND HOMES WAS TRAUMATIZING. A FLOODED HOME WHOSE ROOF WAS SCRAWLED WITH “IN GOD WE TRUST” WAS SHOWN ON CBS NEWS. That was in October 2015. The Black River receded. Residents cleaned up, salvaged what they could and moved on with their lives. Yet one glaring reminder of the flood remained. The pride of Kingstree, the Black River was marred by debris. Tires, refrigerators, tables, chairs, chunks of porches and decks and countless other items that had been scooped up by the churning waters still remained in the river. The mess was particularly galling to residents. “Our area is known as the Sportsman’s Paradise. Hunting and fishing are big here. The river is a very important part of our community,” says longtime Kingstree Lion Louis Drucker, a dentist. Kingstree Lions and others clean the Black River. So the club partnered in June with the South Carolina Waterfowl Association and the Black River Beauties Paddling Club to clean a 7.2-mile stretch of the river. Nearly 2,000 pounds of trash were collected. An orderly, assembly line-like method was employed. Lions in boats and kayaks snagged the litter. Motorboats transported the garbage to the shore, where another group of Lions hauled it away. The club received credit locally for their efforts. “We got a lot of mentions on Facebook. People really see things on social media,” says Drucker. The club also received another kind of credit: it reported the cleanup to Lions Clubs International (LCI) as a centennial project. The Kingstree Lions Club is one of 32,413 clubs so far to designate a service initiative as a centennial project and report it to LCI. Lions’ goal was to serve 100 million people from 2014 to June 2018. The goal was easily reached—in September LCI zoomed beyond the 100 million mark, and Lions are still serving. Nearly every project imaginable has been reported. Clubs screened children’s vision. They planted trees, stocked food pantries, sent care packages to soldiers overseas, repaired parks, gave books to children, recycled paper and held a sports day for those with disabilities. LCI asked Lions to focus specifically on four social needs. The numbers so far: Nearly 28,000 clubs benefited 41 million youths under the Engaging Our Youth component. About 21,000 clubs helped 38 million people in terms of Protecting the Environment. Some 21,600 clubs fed 27. 5 million people under Relieving the Hunger, and 22,300 clubs assisted 20.6 million regarding Sharing the Vision. LCI relies on clubs to tally and report the number of people served by their projects. At the same time, to ensure the results are legitimate, especially for hard-to-determine efforts such as cleanups and tree plantings, LCI caps the maximum number of people served from a project at 3,000. Lions discovered that coming together for a centennial project provides an extra impetus for community service. Two years ago Lions in District 20 R1 in New York cleaned up river areas as a centennial initiative, and in 2015 clubs provided snack packs for needy schoolchildren when school was not in session. This year clubs filled 57 backpacks for children in need. The youths received not only the backpacks but also school supplies such as crayons, colored pencils and lunch boxes with thermoses. Some of the backpacks went to schoolchildren in Westchester County, the source of more commuters to New York City than any other county and a place not normally viewed as lacking in material resources. That was all the more reason to reach out, says Kristina McCarthy, district centennial coordinator. “There definitely are pockets of need. You don’t always see it, but it’s there,” she says. Adds District Governor Dina Nejman, a social worker, “People don’t want to let you know they need help. They may go to their church or synagogue for help. They may be working and still not have enough money to put food on the table.” Fourteen clubs, or 60 percent of the district’s total, took part in the backpack project. Word-of-mouth from last year’s snack pack project spurred Lions to participate. “There were a lot of smiles on the faces of children. You can see the difference you make,” says McCarthy, who plans to be in Chicago for the centennial convention. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event,” she says. CLUBS ARE ENCOURAGED TO KEEP DOING CENTENNIAL PROJECTS AND REPORT THE RESULTS TO LCI.
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