Edison Metro Leos Lucy Gao (left) and Melanie Zhang perform the sword dance for an audience in New Jersey. Lions and Leos Make Beautiful Music Together A band leader in college, Lion Eddie Hui is able to combine his love of music with service. Hui, 72, is the leader of the Edison Lions Musical Group of New Jersey. The daringly different, 25-member ensemble plays or dances to Broadway show tunes, classical songs by Handel and others, spiritual songs such as “Ave Maria” and, especially, traditional Chinese songs. The group consists of Lions and Leos and a few non-Lions of Chinese descent. Many are from or connected to the Edison Metro Lions Club, whose members have a Chinese background. Hui founded the group in 2008, two years after serving as district governor. “I just thought we could have a lot of fun while still doing community service,” Hui says. The group performs at nursing homes, veterans’ hospitals, adult day care centers and senior centers as well as at Lions’ gatherings. They often play before Chinese-Americans. The two-hour show varies depending on the audience. “We find out who our audience is before we go and adjust our performances accordingly,” Hui explains. The Leos are talented. They play instrumentals on guitar, saxophone, violin and flute. A Leo who is autistic plays the piano. Leos demonstrate yo-yo tricks and Kung-Fu moves during the show. The group has evolved. Originally it was about 30 percent Lions and Leos and 70 percent non-Lion. Now only two or three are not Lions or Leos. The group once performed for free. Then Hui discovered that other performance groups like theirs charged a fee, so he now suggests a small donation. “Setting a higher amount would be against our community service spirit,” he says. Still, the group raised more than $10,000 last year. Leos leave the group when they go to college. But that’s not a problem. “We have so many talented young people in our community. But if they want to perform with us, they have to be Leos,” says Hui. “So the clubs are really growing because these kids want to show what they can do. I see our group continuing to perform for a long, long time.” Learning Tech Skills from Blind Teachers In Trinidad, Leon George voluntarily shares his computer skills with residents of the Audrey Mollineau Halfway House, a home for women with mental or intellectual disabilities as well as visual impairments. He can understand some of their frustration because he lost his sight in 1985 as a result of glaucoma. George and other Lions serve through the Computer Literacy Project started by the Petit Juan Lions Club of San Juan and its branch club based at the Blind Welfare Association of Trinidad and Tobago. George is an instructor there. “What is most rewarding for me is the enthusiasm and the joy it brings to the women. But the most useful thing for them is teaching them another way to communicate,” he says. “Now these women can read a newspaper online. They can find the information they want and save it. “We have to take it slow, to exercise a lot of patience. Most of the women are considered mentally challenged because of the trauma they have had in their lives.” The tutors use a screen reader called Job Access With Speech (JAWS). A computer voice helps them complete actions. Instructions start with beginning skills like finger positioning, typing and saving documents before moving on to word building and email. Zelma Young-Bernard, president of the Petit Juan Lions, says the project expands the horizons of the otherwise homeless women who have found refuge in the house. The women with limited concentration may find the program more difficult, but George says he expects interest to grow. “It’s so popular and so encouraging that I think we will be here for a long time,” he says. “And for some, the extra activity also serves as therapy.” Sharing Lunch and Life Lessons in Ohio The children come for the food and leave with a head filled with new knowledge. Savannah Lions in Ohio host “Savannah Summer” in a park for low-income children when school is out. Picked up by Lions Dick Algeo and Bill Morgan, the bagged lunches come from a food bank in nearby Ashland. The educational component comes from—well, just about anywhere. Deputies from the sheriff’s department once visited with bomb removal robots. Another time Lions arranged for enactors dressed as President Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary to bring a lunch they would have enjoyed in 1864—hard-boiled eggs, biscuits and ham. Lions in the small town of 412 people also provide Legos, books and games for the children. Children examine a hissing cockroach presented by “Amazon Eric” as part of his nature presentation during “Savannah Summer.” Photo by Lydia Nowakowski The initiative grew from Lion Judy Kocab’s food deliveries to two young brothers after she discovered their family ate leftovers from a diner. “I knew there were children who were hurting, who went to bed hungry. These kids need help,” says Kocab, who worked with Lion Mary Edward to begin “Savannah Summer.” Kocab is certain the project has made a difference. She recalls Mikey, 10, who lived alone with an alcoholic father. “He often left him to fend for himself. Mikey soaked up all the positive attention from us,” Kocab says. Lions connected a girl who didn’t like school with an after-school tutoring program and arranged for a young single mother to receive a stroller for her baby. “We try to focus on helping even one child or family have a better summer,” says Kocab. Juneau Lions Bring the Silver And History Home The presentation silver bought by the people of Juneau in 1941 for the USS Juneau has been recovered and brought home by the Mendenhall Flying Lions. Image courtesy of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. In 1941 the people of Juneau, Alaska, united to purchase a silver set for the city’s first namesake ship, the USS Juneau, following tradition to present silver to the Navy officers and crew when a ship is named. Folks held raffles to raise money.Schoolchildren even donated their milk money. Seventy-five years later, the Mendenhall Flying Lions, led by their president Donna Hurley, brought the presentation silver home. The USS Juneau is remembered for its tragic role in American wartime history. Six months after the christening, in November of 1942, 685 men lost their lives when the ship was sunk by a torpedo in the naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Ten men survived. The silver set was not on board when the ship sunk. It was brought out of U.S. Navy storage twice when subsequent ships were named for Juneau, and then not again until 1987 when a memorial in Juneau was dedicated to the crew. Hurley helped with the memorial and met the five remaining survivors of the sinking as they toasted their lost mates with the silver cups. Decades later, in 2014, a friend asked what had become of the silver. Hurley did not know. But she was bent on finding out. “After meeting five of the men who survived that tragedy, it kind of puts a place in your heart that’s hard to describe,” she says. “Where there’s a need, there’s a Lion. That’s the first thing that went through my brain.” Hurley scoured old news reports, and with the help of Jodi DeBruyne, curator of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, found the silver was stored in San Diego. DeBruyne made arrangements with the U.S. Navy to have the set loaned to the museum for 10 years. But the museum didn’t have the money to ship it, and so one of the Mendenhall Flying Lions flew to San Diego and got it. “People appreciate having something that remembers the sacrifice those people gave,” says DeBruyne. Lions Keep On Truckin’ When Lion David Stark Sr. Passed away in 2008, his wife, Deanna Stark, and granddaughter, Rebecca Shockley, joined his Lions club to carry on his legacy. But that wasn’t all. They wanted “something fun to do,” says Shockley. Stark had a 1957 American LaFrance fire truck sitting on his driveway in Mehlville, Missouri. He had purchased it for $600 in the late 1990s, and it quickly became his very large toy and hobby, used primarily for parades. Eager to keep his love for the Lions alive, Deanna Stark gave the truck to Mehlville Lion Geoff Mees, asking only that he do something positive with it. What could be more positive than to use it for Lions’ projects? Mees and his fellow Lions stripped, sanded and painted the truck. They raised money for repairs by offering local business sponsorships. Any business that donated $500 or more would see their name on the truck. Mehlville Lions rehabbed a 1957 fire truck for parades and projects. Work on the truck has been steady for the last six years, Mees says. “But I’ve been really working hard on it for the last 4.5 years. I got new wheels and new tires on it. We painted it a dark blue—Lion blue. And a purple lion’s head is airbrushed on the dash.” Mees also built a smoker for the truck, allowing Lions to smoke 16 turkeys at a time. With the help of the neighboring Southside Lions and the Lemay Jefferson Baracks Lions, both in St. Louis, they delivered turkey dinners to 48 families. The truck is also outfitted with drink taps, and it has parade seating on the back. Mees says the truck has been instrumental in upping their club membership numbers. “New folks coming into the area see what we’re doing. They see the truck,” he says. “If they want to hustle and be a part of something good, then they like what we do and they join in.” Hooked on Crochet Folsom Lake Lion Cris Gerard heard about the need for help with a crochet project at Folsom State Prison, and she was hooked. The inmates in California were crocheting hats for babies, but couldn’t find places to accept their donations. Gerard says she knew the Lions could help. She enlisted the support of her all-female club of 10, and now inmates in the Hooks N Needles charitable crocheting program are turning out more than 1,000 items a year that the Folsom Lake Lions distribute to nine charities. “The Lions legitimatized our program. Once they stepped up, it all changed,” says Marcia Devers, who coordinates the weekly leisure time program that began with an inmate request in 2011. The group has increased from three men to about 50, says Devers, and their skills have grown from making beanies to hats and scarves, blankets and a variety of stuffed animals including a lion. They are self-taught or taught by a fellow inmate. “We are just the in-between. We provide them with yarn, and we distribute what they complete,” says Gerard. “They do the important part. “ The Lions’ $500 budget for the project is usually spent on stuffing. The yarn is donated, and Gerard takes 10 to 12 large bags of yarn to the prison every few weeks. “The men leave their issues and their daily problems in prison life behind, and they come in here and support each other,” explains Devers. “They know their time is well spent because they’re giving back. “These Lions. They might be small, but they’re mighty. They get a lot done, and that’s impactful for these guys. There are not a lot of things that are motivating and impactful around here on a daily basis. But the Lions are.” Growing the Number of Monarch Butterflies in Minnesota Scandia Marine Lions Janie O’Connor and Marilyn Opp were in line for dinner at their club meeting in Stillwater, Minnesota, when an idea began to sprout. Scandia Marine Lions in Stillwater, Minnesota, grew and gave away more than 350 milkweed plants to support the monarch butterflies whose numbers are dwindling because of habitat loss. Opp had read in a previous LION magazine about the decline in the number of monarch butterflies because of habitat loss and the need to plant more milkweed to support them. O’Connor, a naturalist whose lifelong interest in monarch butterflies led to her being known as the club’s “butterfly lady,” had read it as well. They agreed that the Lions could help. The women planted a few test seeds in pots, and O’Connor, who first raised caterpillars and butterflies as a childhood 4H project, watered and watched as milkweed grew in her living room window. Soon the two had planted their service project idea in other Lions’ heads. Lion Don Peterson offered his greenhouse, hundreds of pots were donated, and O’Connor washed the pots in her bathtub. Lions and friends helped plant 418 pots of milkweed from O’Connor’s collection of about 1,600 seeds. Eightynine percent of the seeds germinated. But their work wasn’t done. When the greenhouse got too warm, the women moved the plants to Lion Dan Lee’s fenced garden plot, nestling them between his garden vegetables. “We were lucky. It rained,” recalls Opp. Not long after, they loaded more than 350 thriving plants onto Lee’s hay wagon and drove slowly–8 mph– into town to share their plants with fellow Lions. Leftovers were given away at a farmer’s market. From start to finish the project took about eight weeks, O’Connor says. “But when you have a passion, you don’t call it work.” “You just need a couple like-minded people, first to be excited about it and then to champion each other so you keep going,” adds Opp. O’Connor wears a T-shirt that says, “If you plant it, they will come.” She’s talking about milkweed and monarchs. But apparently the same can be said of the Scandia Marine Lions. Persistence Yields Potatoes in N. Hampshire Lions in Henniker, New Hampshire, expected the usual garden pests when they proposed planting a vegetable garden to support local food pantries. Lion Jerry Eisen, a lifelong gardener, was glad to take on the challenge. What Eisen did not anticipate was the stack of paperwork and years of red tape that plagued their efforts to grow vegetables on government-owned land and acquire water from the only close water source, Amy Brook. Eisen persevered though, “so our club could follow through on our pledge to serve others,” says Lion Marti Capuco. Finally, in their fifth growing season, the Lions’ garden had water and plentiful produce despite the local drought. The quarter-acre garden is a joint effort between the Henniker and Hopkinton Lions Clubs to support food pantries in both towns. Although Eisen spearheads the project and mows, other Lions contribute Saturday time for chores, plus Tuesday evenings during harvest season. Their reward: 1,000 to 3,000 pounds of produce a year to share with others. “It’s been a very successful joint effort. People are enthusiastic, and they put in a lot of time,” Eisen says. Although the idea for the garden was planted more than six years ago, it took a year to get the lease for a community garden on the fertile U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land. Then it was four more years before permission was granted to pump water from the nearby brook. Lions had to haul water. “It’s a good thing it finally came through,” says Eisen. “This past year was the driest. If we hadn’t gotten water, we would not have had a garden.” The Lions grow tomatoes, cabbage, eggplant, string beans, cucumbers, squash and, of course, potatoes. Local schoolchildren have also helped. “It was like an Easter egg hunt for them harvesting potatoes,” says Eisen. “You never saw anything like it.”
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