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Nichols: Lions Club has a true vision for community service

POSTED: June 21, 2010 1:00 a.m.

As a mentor to some super fantastic third-grade students at Enota Elementary School, I was invited to talk about mentoring to the local Lions Club weekly luncheon.

I really enjoyed talking about my third-graders because I had worked with almost the entire grade in the library on special projects. I like to listen and found the students to be amazing in the energy of their interests.

Their teacher was amazing. She had a dog that could play soccer (I saw it actually running after the soccer ball one recess period. It did not really "play soccer" but the students pretended it was one of their team).
Members of the Lions Club were polite. I noted they all stayed awake during my talk. And they invited me to join as a member. I did and have been a member for nearly a decade.

The first Lions Club was formed in 1917 in Chicago by Melvin Jones.

Today, Lions International has 4,500 clubs in over 200 countries with a world wide membership of over 1.3 million members.

The Gainesville Lions Club was chartered October 1934 and has just fewer than 50 members today.

Soon after Lions clubs began to be established in many U.S. cities, Helen Keller suggested we become Knights for the Blind. Sight impaired persons thus have always been and are still our major concern.

Today, we also work with the hearing impaired, children with diabetes, and several other groups who might need our assistance.

How can we support needy persons unless we have money for charity? For a time in our early years we had very successful bingo games. But states got into the lottery business and our games could not compete with the large prizes from the state games.

We started selling brooms and mops to raise money for the blind. At first we went door to door certain times of the year. But the project I enjoy the most is our weekend in the fall of the year at Mule Camp Market, selling from our tent on the square. Our brooms last longer than a year, but some people are repeat purchasers year after year. It is a lot of fun, even on rainy days.

The best fundraiser is our Children's Theater which we run Saturdays in the fall and spring of the year. We canvass local businesses that make contributions for our charity. Each contributor gets a number of passes that the contributor then can distribute for free to families with young children.

When the children arrive to the place of our show (the social hall of a local church such as Riverbend Baptist), we take their pass and give each child a number for the door prizes we give out at the end of the two shows that day.

I really like to watch the children react to our magic or puppet show, their faces smiling with true joy.

We use that money to support the Georgia Lions Camp for the Blind located in Waycross on 61 acres of land. This camp runs five or six weekly summer sessions for sight impaired children.

We also support several weekly camps for children with diabetes. We help move campers into their cabins, and sometimes volunteer to do minor repair and maintenance work that needs to be done. So we offer support of our money and muscle to assist those who need our help.

Around town we have placed several boxes to collect discarded eyeglasses to give to those in need with similar visual correction needs. We also recycle used cell phones.

The club assists and supports the Georgia Lions Lighthouse, a statewide organization with headquarters in Atlanta. It serves the entire state to provide glasses and eye surgeries at no cost to the needy in our state who qualify.

We provide college scholarship money for special needy persons.

We also provide a grant to the winner of the goal program of Lanier Technical College. Two of our members serve as judges in that speaking contest about the importance of technical education in our world today.

I guess it is obvious, I really am proud to be a member of one of the civic organizations in Gainesville, all of whom do so much good in our very needy world. Each organization has its own special concern. I like the Lions concerns best.

Tom Nichols is a retired college professor who lives in Gainesville. His column appears regularly on Mondays and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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