Jay Copp 2017-11-17 13:22:51
Goodfellows Live Up to Their Name They call themselves Goodfellows−a nickname that dates from 1941 when they began their holiday mission. It’s a name that’s entirely fitting. For 76 years Richmond Lions in Michigan have stood on street corners in December hawking a once-a-year newspaper, also called Goodfellows. The slim newspaper is full of ads from merchants, sold by the Lions, with a few stories about the club’s mission. The Goodfellows’ slogan is “No Child Without a Christmas.” The revenue from the ads and newspaper sales also supports hungry families and seniors. Actually, for 75 years the Goodfellows sold the newspaper in the streets. Last year the state of Michigan ruled that a longstanding law barred street sales of newspapers, however noble the cause. Undeterred, the Goodfellows sold their paper in a parking lot and near sympathetic merchants. But sales slumped. This year, after Lions persisted in making their case, the state reversed course and decided to allow Lions to proceed as usual. The Goodfellows will be back on the streets, making the season merry for others. Over the years the club has brought Christmas cheer to untold numbers. Lions don’t get to see the private moments that cheer a child’s heart, that let a boy or girl know that strangers care about them. But the Lions treasure a special story from long ago. They understand such transformative moments happen each year even if they don’t learn of them. In 1949, a 4-year-old girl from northwest Detroit lived with her mom and two sisters. Their dad had died two years ago. Times were tough. That Christmas the Goodfellows showed up at their door with a heap of clothes and a doll for the 4-year-old. Oddly but fortuitously, the doll was not new. In fact, one leg was partly missing, and she had a “skull injury.” Part of her head had chipped off. “When I saw her, my heart was moved to compassion to love her and make her better. I knew in my heart I had to take care of broken children,” says the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous. She became a pediatric nurse. One dollar changed the life of a child, who grew up to change the lives of others. “People can never know what one act of kindness can do in the life of another person,” says the woman. Farm Aid Lions know we change the world with small acts of kindness—and sometimes with a big cow. City slickers, members of the Zurich St. Peter Lions Club in Switzerland appreciate the hard work of farmers. So when they learned a farm family was down on its luck, they sprang into action. In remote Toggenburg, where Jorg and Lucia Rutz struggled to make ends meet with their assortment of calves, sheep and pigs, Lions fenced the pastures of their farm. They also donated a cow to the Rutz family. The Swiss know you can give a thirsty man a glass of milk, but it’s far better to give a cow to a man who knows how to milk one. Tragedy Inspires Generosity John Matheson, 72, is a welcome, rollicking sight at Christmas time at his retirement community with his “sleigh,” a golf cart. He delivers cakes and puddings for his Lions club. He also cuts a dashing figure as a Grey Nomad, part of a caravan of RVs that crisscross Australia. He rolls into his travel his service as a Lion: he’s a member of Lionsonoz, a club for traveling Lions that assists other clubs with their service projects. His carefree lifestyle belies his hardscrabble youth. Actually, his choice to be a Lion directly grew out of that early desperation. When he was 10, the eldest of five children, his father, a struggling sugar cane farmer and miner, rounded a curve on his motorbike and to avoid hitting children playing on the road swerved sharply. He crashed, and the gas tank burst into flames. He died in agony. Eight years later an electrical fault in the family’s refrigerator caused a fire. The house burned to the ground. “The Lions of Innisfail were the first people to come forward,” he recalls. “They gave Mum 50 pounds, enough for her to purchase two sets of clothes for each of us kids and herself. “I said to myself at the time that if I ever had the chance to repay the debt by joining Lions I would.” That chance happened when a friend invited Matheson to a Lions meeting in 1976. The hard times of others evoke his past and motivate him to serve as a Lion. He once painted the home of a widow with three children. He also cleaned and painted every grave at a cemetery. “I have been involved in so many great projects I could spend all day detailing them,” he says. But one of his all-time favorites involved an elderly woman. Lions spent two weekends cleaning her yard and doing odd jobs around her house. When a member was working around a window, he broke it. So Matheson had a glazier install a new sheet of glass. The glazier, getting into the spirit of the day, did his work free of charge. Matheson invited the woman to become a Lion. She and her husband were among the 44 Lions he sponsored. Until the husband died, “they were fantastic members,” says Matheson. Final Wish Helps Kids with Cancer After his cancer was in remission, Dave Lentz crossed the border from Ontario, Canada, to Buffalo and came back with his dream car−an orange 2012 Corvette convertible with a black top and a 6.2-liter V8 under the hood. Lentz was a car guy. Starting as a teen-ager, he rebuilt cars, competed in car shows and raced Corvettes. He took his new car out for spins on Sundays. But after only a few drives his right arm and shoulder bothered him. The cancer was back. Despite aggressive treatment, the cancer spread. Lentz, a 67-year-old Port Dover Lion, came home to die. “Do you want to keep the car?” he asked his wife, Jean, one day. She knew it would remind her of the tough times. After his long career as an electrical engineer, the couple had started a 25-acre farm specializing in Saskatoon berries. Nearby was Camp Trillium on Rainbow Lake, a 143-acre oasis for children with cancer. Lions clubs throughout Ontario support it. The Port Dover Lion Club particularly embraced the camp, funding a new building and dispatching work crews for routine maintenance. Lentz was among the volunteers. The children he met made an impression. “When I think of those kids at Camp Trillium at 7, 12 or 17 years and somebody saying it’s game over … ,” Lentz told his wife as his health declined, according to the Toronto Star. Lentz died in 2014, and the sale of the car raised more than $50,000 (US$45,500). The camp used the proceeds to install new lighting in the parking lot, to create wheelchair-accessible parking, to fix the maintenance shop and to put on a new roof. “He loved that car,” says friend Dan Doyle, a Port Dover Lion. “It was the greatest gift he could give.” Driven By Kindness Grand Junction Lions in Colorado call them “random acts of kindness.” But often there is nothing random about them. That’s what makes them so welcomed. Once a year each Grand Junction Lion receives $100 to dispense as he or she sees fit. Steve Stewart pooled his stipend with those of several other members and bought a 1989 Cadillac at an estate auction for Rickey Clark, a Vietnam War veteran who had sold his truck to pay his bills and had been bicycling to work. The gift came with free “options.” An insurance company paid for six months of car insurance. A store donated a battery. Other Lions paid for the license plate and a tank of gas. Stewart spent two days on car maintenance. “I will be definitely paying this forward,” Clark told the Post Independent Newspaper.
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