With many local clubs active in the community, the Lions groups are service organizations that are visible, but also in need of youthful membership.
Gloversville Councilman-at-large James Handy is the president of the city’s chapter of the Lions, where he has been a member five years. He said the recent deaths of Josephine and Dick Fisher emphasized for him the loss of experienced help in the club and the need for new membership.
“Dick was everything at the club,” Handy said Wednesday. “They were both ambassadors of the club.”
Handy said because of the aging membership, he is always hopeful that newer and younger people will be interested in being a part of the organization.
“People are so busy today,” he said. “Young parents have children who are so involved, they just don’t have the time to spend.”
Handy said both younger membership and increased numbers were on his agenda for ways to improve the Lions.
“In numbers, there is power,” Handy said.
According to the Lions’ Web site:
The International Association of Lions Clubs began as the dream of a Chicago insurance man Melvin Jones, who wondered why local business clubs — he was an active member of one — could not expand their horizons from purely business concerns to the betterment of their communities and the world at large.
Jones’ idea struck a chord within his own group, the Business Circle of Chicago, and they authorized him to explore his concept with similar organizations from around the United States. His efforts resulted in an organizational meeting at a local hotel June 7, 1917.
The 12 men who gathered there overcame a natural sense of loyalty to their parent clubs, voted the “Association of Lions Clubs” into existence, and issued a call for a national convention to be held in Dallas, Texas, in October of the same year.
Thirty-six delegates representing 22 clubs from nine states heeded the call, approved the “Lions Clubs” designation, and elected Dr. William P. Woods of Indiana as their first president. Guiding force and founder Melvin Jones was named acting secretary, thus beginning an association with Lionism that didn’t end until his death in 1961.
The International Association of Lions Clubs is today the largest service organization in the world with over 1.4 million members in more than 43,300 clubs in 714 Districts covering 182 countries and geographic areas. Lions Clubs are not social clubs, although there are social benefits to membership.
Lions Club members give their time, skills and resources to raise funds for charitable giving both in their communities and internationally.
John Samples was the charter president of the Broadalbin-Perth Lions Club and spoke about some of the charity efforts of the local organization.
“We were chartered on June 30, 2003,” Samples said. “A couple of members from the Johnstown Lions Club were from Perth and saw the need for a club in their are.”
Now with 22 members, Samples said all Lions Clubs main service is for sight related programs.
“We do direct care for eye glasses,” Samples said. “We get referrals from local schools when the school nurses gives eye exams and the parents can’t afford the [eye doctor] exam and glasses.”
Samples said the Lions utilize LensCrafters in Rotterdam Mall because the international organization has a special arrangement with them.
“They have a program called the ‘Gift of Sight,’ “ Samples said. “It is primarily used by Lions, but is available for any organization.”
Samples said for a flat fee of $50 a child can be examined and get a pair of glasses. He said a voucher is issued to the parents of the child, who also have to give their permission in writing.
“We rely on the schools to know their people and don’t require any proof of financial need,” Samples said. He added that other Lions Clubs may require proof of financial need.
“We also provide hearing aids to those in need, although that tends to be more for adults than youth,” he said.
Samples said the used eyeglasses program many are aware of in connection with the Lions Clubs are only to be used outside the country as the U.S. doesn’t allow used glasses.
“They mostly go to third-world countries,” he said.
Samples has a long history with the Lions. He originally was a member in his native state of Tennessee and has been a member in Gloversville and Plattsburgh. He said the recent visit by Helen Keller’s grandniece, Keller Johnson Thompson, who spoke in local schools was another aspect of the Lions activities.
“She has been coming to speak in schools in New York State the past seven years,” Samples said. “But this is the first time we’ve had her in Fulton County.”
He said the group also supports the Broadalbin Youth Commission and can be seen at soccer games with a food concession to help raise money.
“When a local 9-month-old boy needed eye surgery about 18 months ago and the Albany Eye Institute didn’t have the necessary pediatric eye surgeon, we helped send him to Long Island for the needed surgery,” Samples said. “He’s doing fine now.”
Samples said the group arranged a stay for the parents at a local Ronald McDonald House, paid $1,200 transportation and the surgery was paid for through the hospital and the family’s Medicaid.
“It made us all feel good to help,” he said.
Shaun Schriner, president of the Fonda-Fultonville Lions Club agreed with Samples.
“We help out with whatever the community needs,” he said.
Some of the FFLC donations include donations to Mountain Valley Hospice and little league programs locally.
“It was our 25th anniversary for the Fonda-Fultonville Lions club in 2007,” he said.
Handy said he hoped local clubs might band together in the future to have more impact.
“In numbers. there is power,” Handy said. “You can accomplish more.”
For more information, call a local Lions Club at:
• Johnstown — 762-4487
• Gloversville — 725-2323
• Broadalbin-Perth — 883-5727
• Amsterdam — 842-6462
• Fonda-Fultonville — 848-2301
• Northville — 863-8786
Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at ga@leaderherald. com.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Bill Suchy, past president of the Broadalbin-Perth Lions Club, places a pin on the Lions Club banner during a meeting at Vandeline’s Restaurant in Broadalbin Thursday.