Sharing the Joy of Reading From his garage, Lion Gordon Simonson of Minnesota leads his club in collecting and shipping gently-used children’s books to Africa to help create libraries and a new generation of readers. Lion Gordon Simonson and his wife, Corinne, love a good book, particularly if it’s a mystery novel. They have about 1,000 books on their shelves at home. But in addition to being a reader, “the man is a bald angel in a yellow vest,” says Chris Bradshaw, founder of the African Library Project, a program that helps create libraries in African communities with little or no access to books. Simonson wanted others to have the same opportunity to read and to discover the joy in reading, so in 2007 he got the Northfield Cannon Valley Lions Club in Minnesota to start collecting gently used children’s books. Since then the club has shipped 12,000 books to Africa. “If you teach people how to read you can’t pull them around by the nose quite so easily,” Simonson says. “People have the ability to think for themselves.” The Northfield Lions were awarded the African Library Project’s Compassion in Action Award for their exceptional contribution to literacy, says Julie Freeman, an ALP board member. “We’re all members of the Gordon Simonson fan club here.” Simonson, who has continued to spearhead the Lions’ effort, tried various ways to find books. Originally he scanned garage sales. But that was too time consuming, and people tend to have an inflated view of what their things are worth, he says. Now the Lions get a nice variety from libraries that have bag sales for books pulled from the shelves and from the local hospital auxiliary book sale. “This is one of those projects where somebody takes a hold of it and does it, and it happened to be a thing I thought I could do,” Simonson says. At 88, he is considering retiring from this job, but right now the Simonsons are still collecting the books in their garage until they get about 1,000. Lions then help to box and ship them via U.S. mail to New Orleans, where the boxes go into a shipping container headed for Johannesburg, South Africa. They have to be careful not to pack the boxers too full, Simonson says. “A heavy box gets heavier by the day.” Brooms! Come and Get ‘Em For many years Lions were known for going door-to-door selling brooms to fund their projects. But over the years the tradition got swept away. Now the Aurora Noon Lions in Illinois are back to selling brooms, not door-to-door, but in local businesses. Lion Jerry Spirk, past president of the Aurora Noon Lions, checks their brooms on sale in local businesses to support Lions’ projects. Photo by Al Benson. Jerry Spirk, past president of the club, revived the broom sales in 2012 and business continues to be brisk, says Lion Dick Schindel who sells the brooms alongside Dick’s Mini-Donuts at summer farmer’s markets in town. The Lions offer a small children’s model for $5, a kitchen broom for $10, a corn model made from broom corn for $12 and a push broom for $15. Schindel said the corn broom and the children’s broom are the best sellers. Profits from broom sales support vision and hearing programs for youth and adults as well as the local food pantry. Lions Help Rebuild After a Wildfire Thirty homes and 11 other structures were lost when a wildfire swept through the small community of Rock Creek in British Columbia, Canada. Although it was difficult to grasp the enormous impact that the fast-moving fire would have, the Midway Greenwood Kettle River Lions got right to work. The club has a tradition of giving $500 to families that lose their homes in the area, but with 30 homes lost, they questioned how they could get $15,000 to help. Lions rebuild after the wildfire in British Columbia, Canada. Acting quickly, they committed $5,000 from their resources and asked others to donate what they could. Amazement followed as other Lions clubs and citizens from the area, and all throughout the southern interior of British Columbia and beyond, made donations. Over time the Lions raised almost $40,000, enabling them to help more than 34 individuals and families, according to Lion Laura Kirkham. Using donated funds and materials, Lions and a few extra volunteers have now rebuilt 12 outbuildings including garden sheds, storage sheds and pump houses. People also donated items to replace what was lost outside the homes, including tools for gardeners, wood workers and backyard mechanics. “Determined, we persevered,” Kirkham says. “Our members feel proud that with community support our club far exceeded the original objective.” Kirkham says the Lions joined with other volunteer organizations in the rural area to host a barbecue on the anniversary date of the fire for all fire victims, firefighters, police and other volunteers who helped. The blackened 10,800 acres, including 12 miles of forest in the steep terrain, is going to take a long time to regenerate, Kirkham says. But combined funds of the Lions and the Canadian Red Cross will help the rebuilding continue. Young jockeys at the annual Garibaldi Lions Crab Races encourage their crabs to reach the finish line first. Crawling to a First-Place Finish When the folks of Garibaldi, Oregon, rush off to the races, they are not envisioning thoroughbreds. They’re thinking of Dungeness crabs and the annual Garibaldi Lions Crab Races, an event that’s going on its 33rd year. Five dollars buys race enthusiasts—and there are several hundred of them—into a weekend of races at the town’s event center where the tracks are all six-feet long, the jockeys range from preschoolers to elders and all the racers eventually get eaten. Losers go to the hot tub first, but most crabs don’t race more than two times. “You don’t want to give the folks a weak crab,” explains President Kelly Barnett. Barnett says the Lions will go through 500 to 600 pounds of crab on race weekend, and 180 to 220 races will be run. Winners in some races receive chartered fishing trips, B & B stays, bicycles and more, all donated by businesses. Garibaldi is a scenic port town of about 1,000, nestled at the northern end of Tillamook Bay, a gateway to the Pacific Ocean. Crabbers are many, and all of the crab for the races and dinners are traditionally donated by the local crab fleet. The history of the races goes back to a group of bored fishermen killing time in a bar, says Barnett. But 32 years ago Lions capitalized on the idea, turning crab racing into a family event that now profits $3,000 to $5,000 a year for the Lions to use toward their sight and hearing fund as well as other charity programs. Typically on race day the track announcer calls out the race and the dollar amount to enter. Jockeys line up along the six-lane sloped track, wranglers load the crabs on the track, the gun fires and the crabs are off. Jockeys are free to scream and pound on the table (and they do), but no touching of the crabs is allowed. Some of the ladies have secret techniques to winning, Barnett says. “I can’t tell you what they are, but I will tell you one thing. Crabs are only afraid of octopuses. They will run from an octopus. So if you happen to have found some octopus perfume... .”
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