JOHNSTOWN - The Johnstown and Central Mohawk Valley Lions Clubs are both celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.
Greg Leibowitz, a member of the Johnstown Lions Club for 28 years, said all the Lions?Clubs are involved in a number of charitable activities. Their efforts can improve the lives of people locally, and even those who live on the other side of the world.
"Anywhere people need help, that is where we go," Leibowitz said.
Patricia’s Restaurant is shown Friday in Johnstown. At right is a sign for the Lions Clubs International. The Johnstown?Lions Club meets at the restaurant the second and fourth Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor
According to information from the Lions?Clubs International website - www.lionsclubs.org/EN/index.php - the volunteer organization has 46,000 clubs and 1.35 million members in 206 countries and geographic areas.
The clubs typically offer many opportunities to volunteer to help in their community.
For example, Leibowitz noted he recently delivered supplies to help people cleanup from Tropical?Storms Irene and Lee to Assemblyman Marc Butler's local office.
"We help out wherever it is needed," he said.
However, the Lions Clubs may be best known for their long history of supporting sight programs and services, including eyebanks and vision screenings.
The Lions Clubs support for those programs goes back to at least 1925, when Helen?Keller addressed the Lions Clubs International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, the website said. Keller challenged Lions to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness," the website said.
"Since then, we have worked tirelessly to aid the blind and visually impaired," the website said.
Leibowitz joined the Lions partly because he has a niece who was born blind.
According to information from Peter H.?Wilson - who joined the Johnstown Lions Club in 1965 - the group was able to raise $32,000 during a fundraising drive to donate to the Lions Eye Institute in?Albany. The institute, constructed in 2002, sees more than 30,000 patients each year, according to the Albany Medical College website at www.amc.edu.
Leibowitz said the area clubs ended up donating about $1 million to the institute. That was in addition to their usual work for the visually impaired, which even includes something as simple as helping people get glasses.
However, Leibowitz said, the Lions have expanded into helping the hearing impaired, people with diabetes and a variety of other charitable endeavours.
"We just do charitable things," he said.
According to information from?Wilson, club members built gazebos, bridges and an observation deck on the Harry and Julia Wilson Nature Trail behind Pleasant Avenue Elementary School in Johnstown. They also hosted a Christmas party for the handicapped for years.
Kathleen Lovisa, the secretary for the Johnstown Lions Club, said she has been involved with the group for about a year. The club is involved with a lot of activities she enjoys.
"It's good work and it's a lot of fun," Lovisa said.
Back in 1961, the Gloversville Lions Club sponsored the formation of the Johnstown and Central Mohawk Valley Lions Clubs.
Leibowitz, who is the membership chairman and past president of the Johnstown Lions Club, said that was done for the convenience of the members. That also is why Lions Clubs may meet on different days and times, he said.
Making sure things are convenient for members also is why there are no set volunteer requirements for those who join, Leibowitz said.
As an example, he noted when he first joined. he was able to take part in charitable activities easily. However, once his job required him to start traveling more, helping out as often became impossible.
"The nice things about [Lions Clubs] is you do what you can do," he said.
The number of Lions Clubs and their worldwide reach also allows for plenty of unexpected opportunities to help, Leibowitz said. For example, the Johnstown club was able to get a special-needs child at a local elementary school a laptop computer she needed. No one at the local club had a laptop to give, he said, but by going online and connecting with other clubs they quickly found a member who had a laptop to donate.
Leibowitz said the members of the club make it an enthusiastic and community-minded group.
"We are just a group of your neighbors who want to give back," he said.
The Johnstown and Central Mohawk?Valley Lions Clubs will have a joint 50th anniversary celebration on Oct. 22 starting at 6 p.m. at Patricia's Restaurant in Johnstown starting at 6 p.m. The buffet dinner at the event will cost $25, with checks made payable to the Johnstown Lions Club.
Reservations for the event are due by Monday.
For more information about the Johnstown and Central Mohawk Valley Lions Clubs, visit 20y2lions.org/20Y2/index.htm