EYEGLASS MISSION TO HAITI Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s Lions Club in Newfoundland, Canada A few years ago Brad Moss busily helped collect a huge pile of eyeglasses and contacted a humanitarian group headed to Haiti. His plan was to cheerily donate the glasses to Team Broken Earth and have them dispense them. The group instead sent him a terse email: “You should go.” He’s glad he did. “It changed my life,” says Moss, past president of the Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s Lions Club in Newfoundland, Canada. It changed his life because he’s seen how the four missions he’s been on to Haiti and Nicaragua have changed the lives of others. The latest mission trip in October provided eye exams for 824 people. For some patients, it’s the first time they’ve seen an eye doctor. For some elderly patients, after receiving eyeglasses, it’s the first time they’ve seen a grandchild clearly or been able to read the Bible in years. “You see people led in by the hand. Their vision is that bad. They walk out on their own,” says Moss, a third-generation Lion. “They can scarcely believe it when we are there. They say ‘free?’ A lot of people are crying.” The latest Lions mission team consisted of three Lions, another volunteer and an optometrist. The team traveled as part of a wider Team Broken Earth medical group, which provided medical services. The eyeglasses were recycled by inmates at a correctional center. A wide network of Lions undergirds the missions, supported by the district. An optometrist had dropped out of the mission for personal reasons before it left. So the eye doctor of a local Lion promptly agreed to go. Before Moss’ first mission, figuring out how to pull it off, Moss called Lions in Fargo to learn “the tips and tricks” of a mission, and he spent 90 minutes on the phone with optometrist Tracy Williams, a SightFirst adviser outside Chicago. The latest mission took a week−two days of travel and five full days of screenings. Moss’ role is to dilate pupils and work the autorefractor−a sharp contrast to his day job as a governmental deputy ombudsman, responsible for whistleblowing investigations and misconduct. “It’s a perfect counterbalance to customer complaints,” he says. “This has put things in perspective−the First World and the Third World. I’ve been active in my club, but this is our district’s first international action in its 70 years.” −Jay Copp CAN/BOTTLE RECYCLING Crooked River Ranch, Oregon Oregonians are big recyclers. Back in 1971, the state became the first to adopt a bottle deposit program: a nickel refund for every bottle and can recycled. In early 2017, in an attempt to further incentivize recycling, that refund was doubled. An empty Diet Dr. Pepper can or Aquafina bottle gets you a dime these days in the Beaver State. That’s terrific for the Crooked River Ranch Lions Club in central Oregon. Its primary source of funding is a recycling program started in the 1970s. Five years ago, the club’s annual budget was around $10,000. This year, it will be four times that. “The recycling thing has just been huge for us,” says Lion Doug Reinhart. “We do fundraisers, of course, and we have a limb dump, where people can take discarded limbs and brush. But we’re making over $2,000 a month on deposits now that they doubled the refund. It's been quite a lucrative affair lately.” Crooked River Ranch is a roughly 50-square-mile, unincorporated area that lies to the east of the Cascades, the mountain range that bisects Oregon. It’s a popular retirement spot for those who spent their careers west of the mountains in cities like Portland and Eugene. Reinhart estimates that about half of the 4,500 or so inhabitants of Crooked River Ranch are retirees, drawn to the region for its drier weather and clearer skies. More than a hundred of them are Lions, making it the largest club in the state. Charter member Bill Heisler started the recycling program. “He set up collection sites on the ranch and spent a few hours every day gathering bottles and cans,” Reinhart says. “Then he’d make regular trips in his pickup truck into Redmond, about 15 miles away, to make the deposits.” The money funded sight and hearing projects and other Lions’ initiatives. Heisler died five years ago, but his idea continues to flourish. There are now eight collection sites on the ranch, capturing the bottles and cans of tourists, golfers, and RV dwellers. Russ Hague, who heads up the program these days, organizes pickups at the homes of shutins who can’t make it out to the collection sites. Then, once a week, Lions gather inside an old horse-stable-turned-sorting-shack to divvy up the bottles and cans in preparation for the recycling truck. It’s also a chance to chew the fat. “I’d say we’re a pretty social Lions club, yeah,” Reinhart says. “There’s about eight of us who come sort every week. Everybody’s retired, and it’s always a fun time.” Happily, that fun translates into investment in the larger Crooked River Ranch community. With the new windfall, the Lions have established a scholarship fund for students, and the club can cut bigger checks to nonprofits like the local senior center and the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation. “There are a lot of low-income folks on this ranch who are willing to give up their cans and bottles to us,” Reinhart says. “That support says something, I think, about what we do. They support us because they trust us with that responsibility. They know that money is going right back into the community.” −David Hudnall “There’s about eight of us who come sort every week. Everybody’s retired, and it’s always a fun time.” GOALBALL RESIDENCE Fort Wayne, Indiana Lion Nancy Daughtery saw her first goalball game a few years ago. Blind veterans were playing the fast-paced three-on-three game at the Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Before long Daughtery and other Lions were shagging balls that went out of bounds and running the clock. Lions of Indiana began raising funds for goalball, a Paralympic sport. Its governing body is the United States Association of Blind Athletes, whose executive director is Lion Mark Lucas. U.S. athletes were at a disadvantage without a resident program. They had to travel periodically to camps. Lions and LCIF solved that problem. Last January six blind and visually impaired athletes moved to Turnstone and took up residence in two new houses with six bedrooms. LCIF provided $100,000 for the complex, and Indiana Lions kicked in $12,000. Athlete Daryl Walker says that having a permanent home provides a competitive edge. “When the national championships are here, and all the teams are looking for a space to lay out, I’m like, ‘See you: I’m going back to my room.’ They had to take an Uber and get stuck in traffic. I can just walk two minutes over and take a nap.” The team is talented. Team USA won the silver medal in 2016 at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. Lions now not only assist at practice but also drive the athletes to the grocery store or to catch a train home. Says Daughtery, past president of the Fort Wayne Central Lions Club, “It makes you feel good to hang around these guys and just be associated with them—they’re such an inspiration. They are a team, and they proved that at Rio.” −Claire Zulkey Camp Pacifica Lions Elderly University FOSTER HOME COMPLEX Perkins, Oklahoma Lions are omnipresent at Lions Meadows of Hope in Perkins, Oklahoma. They sand and paint children’s bunk beds at the foster care homes. They make picnic tables. When Lion Colleen Michael of Guymon learned the ponds near the homes were empty, she and her husband loaded three ducklings into a pet carrier, strapped it to the back of their pickup truck and drove six hours to Perkins. Lions of Oklahoma have supported the facility since it began as the Oklahoma Lions Boys Ranch in 1952. It was renamed Lions Meadows of Hope in 2015 when it changed from a limited-stay facility to foster care serving both boys and girls and keeping siblings together. What has not changed is Lions’ financial support and governance. “Instead of us being the last resort group home, we could be the first placement because we’re keeping brothers and sisters together,” says Lion Bryan Larison, executive director. The foster children recognize the Lions' support. A foster family with five teenage boys dining out at a restaurant bumped into a Lion who had visited the campus. “One of the boys went over and said, ‘Thanks for being a Lion,’” Larison says. “The other boys saw that and didn’t want to be outdone, so next thing you know we have a line of five boys shaking this guy’s hand.” Lions Meadows of Hope has five houses on campus and four satellite homes, which can house more than 20 foster children and also accommodate various life situations of the children. Some children eventually return to their parents. Others are adopted. The facility also welcomes foster parents, who find support here. Trey and Kristy Buckminster have lived at Lions Meadows of Hope for more than two years. They have two biological children and have adopted two sets of siblings. “With the training that Lions Meadows of Hope provides, it’s sharing personal experiences. If there’s a problem in your home, they can help you,” Kristy says. “The best thing about the community is the community itself.” The Buckministers live in a cabin made possible by a $75,000 grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation. The current campus was sponsored by Paul Milburn, a Lion who remembered Lions Meadows of Hope in his will. Thousands of foster children have come through Lions Meadows of Hope since 1952. The true measure of its success is every night the children are able to go to sleep free of fear and surrounded by love, says Larison. “With the support of the Lions of Oklahoma we are showing that family is truly the medicine that helps heal a hurting child.” Learn more about Lions Meadows of Hope. −Claire Zulkey COMFORT BAGS FOR KIDS Canonsburg, Pennsylvania Emergency rooms at hospitals are scary for young children. But at Canonsburg Hospital in Pennsylvania their nerves are calmed thanks to comfort bags filled with coloring books, crayons, a stuffed toy and a blanket. The drawstring backpacks are labeled “Liam’s Crew.” Liam Kazmarski died in 2015 just before his third birthday while undergoing treatment for leukemia. His father, Michael Kazmarski, began the project to honor his son. He works for the hospital’s security department, enabling him to often personally deliver the comfort bags. Kazmarski became a Lion a decade ago at the age of 18. His Greater Canonsburg Lions Club raises funds for the bags. Kazmarski doesn’t make it a point to explain the sad history behind the bags. Instead, he’s happy to watch the reactions of the children. “Their little faces light up like Christmas trees,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Some of the parents have been speechless. Some break down and cry, and others want to get involved.”
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