<b>A Lion since 1986, Joanne Parrott sold raffle tickets each year to support Camp Dogwood in North Carolina. This spring, for the first time, she visited the camp for the blind. For four days, she sorted eyeglasses, washed chairs, sealed boats and painted lines in the parking lot.</b> The campers had not yet arrived for the season, but she saw how accommodating the setting was for them. The room numbers were in Braille. Flagstones on the paths indicated the direction for hikers with canes. There was a peaceful sensory garden and museum with tactile displays. “It was just amazing. I could see why we were raising the money,” she says. “It’s like being near the Grand Canyon. It’s indescribable. You have to go there.” She says she will rearrange her work schedule to volunteer at the camp when it’s operating. She’s also sure she’ll sell more than her share of raffle tickets next year. “I know I’ll work harder to sell them. I feel like I know why we do what we do,” she says. Lion Parrott has learned that doing service has compelled her to do even more service. She is not tired or complacent or fully satisfied. She finds herself reinvigorated and wanting to do more. This Lion year International President Sid L. Scruggs III is encouraging Lions to follow the example of peers such as Parrott and commit themselves to service more than ever. He designated October as service commitment month and is asking Lions to sign an online commitment service pledge. (Go to www.lionsclubs.org and search for service commitment pledge.) The pledge is non-binding. No one will check in subsequent months to see if a Lion who has signed the form has indeed increased his or her service. But the pledge serves as a kind of oath or promise for a Lion to be the best Lion they can be and not to satisfied with a routine commitment. Lions can print the pledge and place it in their wallet or purse, affix it to a wall in the club house or otherwise display it at a club meeting. “Lions are all about service. We do a terrific job in serving our communities. But we can do better. We need to do better. There are so many unmet needs, and governments at every level and in nearly every part of the world are not able to meet these needs. Lions are the beacon of hope for our communities,” says Scruggs. October is traditionally Growth Month in which Lions are asked to recruit new members. That emphasis on growing the association remains. But Lions also are being asked to commit themselves to service to strengthen their clubs and the association The commitment to service is part of Scruggs’ general emphasis on service, particularly hands-on or direct service. Four special service events are slated for the Lion year. In August, Lions were asked to shine a beacon of hope on youth by planning programs in conjunction with the United Nations World Youth Day. In October, Lions are asked to support blindness prevention projects in conjunction with Lions’ World Sight Day and to assist the visually impaired. Around the holidays, the emphasis is in alleviating hunger and in April, in support of Earth Day, the focus is on environmental projects. Scruggs also is encouraging clubs to join in the recommitment to service. A club may choose to assess its level of service and determine the best way to strengthen its community service. A highly successful strategy is to adopt or expand a signature project, a club activity for which it is known and admired. “My club is very involved in the VIP (Visually Impaired Persons) Fishing Tournament. Our members love going there. We bring a lot of joy to people with physical challenges and we have a great time doing it,” says Scruggs. Indeed, studies have shown that volunteering amply rewards volunteers. Service improves volunteers’ problem solving skills, their ability to connect with others and gives an overall sense of self-satisfaction. Service even results in numerous health benefits, according to the Washington- based Corporation for National and Community Service. Volunteers tend to have greater longevity, higher functional ability, lower rates of depression and less incidence of heart disease. Of course, Lions’ first concern is for those being helped. Lions know the smiles or hugs they receive indicate the positive result of their service. But sometimes beneficiaries put in words what the service means. Some participants in the VIP fishing event ride a bus for as much as 12 hours to get there. They often know no one. They can’t see. They are trying a new skill. They walk on a wooden pier. They hear the ocean roar. District Governor Gwen White of North Carolina recalls Lion Don Henry patiently explaining procedures to a participant, describing the ocean and pier and then softly telling her to not be afraid. “I’m not frightened,” she replied. “I’ve got God on my right hand and a Lion on my left.”
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