Living Democracy

'Where there's a need, there's a Lion'

Jennifer Wilkins and community member cleaning glassesThe Lions Club International motto is “We serve”.  Hellen Keller asked the Lions something that puts their motto to the test to this day.  

In 1925, Keller sensed a need for advocacy and sponsorship for people who are blind. She reached out to the Lions and asked them to be leaders for the blind. To this day, Lions Clubs are doing their best to honor her request, including the newly established club in Collinsville.

On Monday, June 5, the Collinsville Lions Club invited me to sit in on their meeting at the Collinsville Public Library. Having never been to a Lions Club meeting, I knew very little about them other than the fact that they collected glasses for refurbishing purposes.

This was only the second meeting, but the group is well on its way to being a proactive new Lions Club. They will be a branch of Centre Lions Club and under the wing of the 34A District Governor Anne Shumaker until they have 20 members.

Barbara Mackey said there was a Lions Club in Collinsville in the early 90s, but it has not been active for many years. She was a member of the Lions Club back then and is excited to see the group coming back to Collinsville.

Joining me at the meeting were Shumaker, Mackey, Jennifer Wilkins, Myles Smith, Yvonne Salmoni, Terah Patton, Barry R. Anderson and Margaret Goldthreat.

Miles Smith testing glassesThe group discussed how to proceed to the next step of building up the Collinsville Lions Club. They decided to do a vision screening at the nursing home for the employees. The idea was that it would help the community as well as getting the Lions Club’s name circulating in Collinsville so more people are aware of the opportunity to join. A main goal for their new club is to grow in number.

To help get the idea of a vision screening off the ground, Shumaker brought a Titmus Eye Screening Machine from Centre to show the members. The machine screens for eight different eye conditions such as distant vision, near vision, visual acuity, and more.

Shumaker said this could be a helpful tool for people who are too busy or cannot afford to go to the eye doctor. It will either let them know they are okay, or it will let them know exactly which of the eight issues to be concerned about. They can then take their diagnoses to an optometrist and get it checked out if need be.  

The Lions have four missions: Vision, Envision, Youth and Hunger. They are adding diabetes to the list this year. Dues and fund raisers support the Lions Club. Shumaker said that last year they sold brooms and mops made by blind people to raise funds.

Some of those funds go to bigger entities to make a huge impact. The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Callahan Eye Hospital and the Lions Clinic is supported by all Lions Clubs in Alabama. They donate to the clinic and fund surgeries for people who cannot afford it.

Lions Club membersWhen Shumaker arrived at the Lions Club meeting, she was carrying a large box full of glasses cases. After the meeting. she asked me if I could help her clean them off so she could ship them to the people that were traveling to Honduras for a mission trip. Once they were all clean, we counted 134 glasses cases.

I was astounded that she had accumulated that many cases. When asked how she managed to collect that amount, she responded, “Where there’s a need, there’s a Lion.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Lions Club. It was established in Chicago in 1917. Since then, it has expanded to 204 geographical areas and has 1.4 million members.

The Collinsville Lions Club will be meeting at noon every second Tuesday of the month. If you have interest in joining the Lions Club, call the president, Jennifer Wilkins, at the Collinsville Public Library at (256) 524-2323 for more information.

By Whitney Sutton
Last Updated: June 14, 2017