The Association of Lions Club has spent the last 100 years living out its motto of serving communities. While the national organization is celebrating its centennial, local chapters of the club are also celebrating milestone anniversaries this year.
The Pottsboro chapter of the Lions Club celebrated its 35th anniversary on June 16, and the Sherman Noon Lions Club will be celebrating 80 years in June of 2018.
In commemoration of the anniversary, the Pottsboro chapter participated in the “Lions Centennial Legacy Project.”
The group placed a memorial plaque at the foot of the Live Oak tree at James G. Thompson Park in Pottsboro.
The Pottsboro club was started by 22 local businessmen. Now, only one charter member remains in the club that includes 32 men and women and two student members.
Pottsboro club President Perry Garman joined the club in 2015. He said he was looking for a way to give back to his community when he found the Lions Club.
“I — through my membership in the club — gave three scholarships to Pottsboro graduating seniors, provided vision screening for 40 young people and support other Lions projects like Texas Lions Camp; Organ and Eye Bank; and eyeglass recycling to name a few,” he said. “I alone could not have accomplished any of these. I looked at several clubs in the area and joined the Pottsboro Lions Club because of their mission to provide scholarships to local students and their commitment to being a 100 percent contributor for 35 years to the other LCI charities.”
For those that have never attended a meeting, Garman said, Lions Club is a group of friends, neighbors and leaders ready to help communities grow and thrive.
“Our motto ‘We Serve’ is represented by more volunteers in more places than any other service club organization in the world, serving in 206 countries and geographic areas,” he said. “Although Lion Clubs are different in many ways they all share a core belief: ‘Our community is what we make of it.’”
Lions Clubs International was founded in 1917 by Melvin Jones, a Chicago insurance broker, seeking to expand the efforts of business clubs similar to his in Chicago, by merging with them. The goal of Jones was to gather people that were successful because of their drive, intelligence and ambition. He wanted them to use these talents to work improving their communities.
“By June 7, 1917, due to his efforts, he had developed a network of business clubs and encouraged them to be of service across the U.S.,” Garman said. “He called on them to meet in Dallas, where they drafted a constitution, bylaws, and a code of ethics. It soon became necessary for Jones to leave his business, so he could devote himself full-time to expand Lionism.”
Now, Garman said, through the Lions exchange program, thousands of young people travel from the United States — and most of the 200 countries where Lions Clubs are located — to learn and share their differences in cultures, customs and develop friendships.
“The Pottsboro Lions Club participates in the district’s exchange program, Julien C. Hyer International Youth Camp,” he said. “The program encourages the understanding between people of the world and allows participants from around the world to be exposed to various aspects of Texas culture and each other, for six weeks.”
The campers spend a fun day playing water games, swimming, boating, tubing and skiing on Lake Texoma.
“This year, the Pottsboro Lions and the Sherman Lions hosted a group of 36 young individuals, between the ages of 16 to 21, from 18 countries and Texas, at the Prothro Center on Lake Texoma,” Garman said.
This year, the Pottsboro Lions Club also presented college scholarships to area high school graduates. Tardee Hughes and Lori Johnson were each selected to receive $1,000 scholarships from the club.
“Since this program was put in place, approximately $50,000 in scholarship funds have been given out,” Garman said.
The Pottsboro Lions Club also held its second vision screening at the Pottsboro Chamber of Commerce building during the Billy Vier Family Fest. About 43 children were tested and eight of them were recommended to go see an eye specialist.
“A fundamental mission of Lionism is the prevention of all avoidable blindness,” Garman said. “This type of screening is designed to catch the early indicators of potential vision loss, and to detect other vision problems, all of which are referred for follow-up care by an appropriate specialist.”
For the future of the Lions Club, local chapters have adopted a new initiative, the global diabetes epidemic.
“Diabetes was chosen because it is a growing epidemic across all cultures and danger to blindness,” Garman said. “Diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, nerve damage and causes blindness. Keller Johnson-Thompson, Helen Keller’s great-grandniece, urged Lions to take on this new challenge.”
The Sherman Noon Lions Club began with 14 charter members in 1928, and there are currently 34 members in the club. Kyle Mence is the club president and has been a lion for 12 years.
“The members of the Sherman Noon Lions are a family of like-minded individuals that want to improve our local community,” he said. “The men and women of our club bring their local knowledge of our community and their special talents together so that we can address the special needs unique to our community.”
In the last 100 years, through the Lions Club International Foundation Lions have provided more than $949 million in support of humanitarian worldwide projects. The most recent was a grant was for victims of hurricane Harvey.
“Every Christmas we provide a week worth of meals to needy families and distribute Toys for Tots presents to the children,” Mence said. “These are families that fall through the cracks of institutional or community support. By being members of the community we are uniquely able to identify these needs.”
Mence said the longevity of the club shows the men and women have a heart to serve.
“At one time or another over the last 80 years almost every business in Sherman has supported the Sherman Noon Lions club, either financially or by having an employee as a member,” he said. “The sad fact is that over the last decade community service organizations have seen a decline in membership and support. The heart and desire is still there, the needs are still there but the all too common, ‘I just don’t have time’ excuse often greets the invitation to join. Locally the Sherman Noon Lions club addresses those that fall through the cracks of institutional support. Since we are from the community we see where the local needs are and we strive to meet those needs. We are the safety net for Sherman.”
Mence said, while the Lions are a worldwide organization, anyone can get involved locally.
“Hundreds of needy children receive free eye screenings with many receiving free eyeglasses because we are here,” he said. “I ask that everyone search their heart and consider sponsoring an employee as a member or joining individually. If you just don’t have the time then donations are always welcome at: P.O. Box 864, Sherman, TX 75091.”
The Sherman Noon Lions Club meets at noon Wednesdays at Golden Corral in Sherman. The Pottsboro Lions Club meets at 11:30 a.m. the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at Club HQ located next to the Pottsboro Police Office at 417 Franklin Street in Pottsboro.