Roaring for 100 years: Evening Lions mark anniversary
When people think about the service organization Lions Club, they may automatically think about how the club is geared toward helping visually impaired people.
However, the organization does a whole lot more.
Lions Club International is celebrating its 100-year anniversary, and members of the Alexandria Evening Lions, which was chartered in 1963, are looking forward to celebrating all year.
Bob and Patti Dahlheimer, members of the Alexandria Evening Lions, recently stopped by the newspaper to share information about the club and its many community projects. Bob, chair of the Evening Lions Club, joined the local club in 1974. Although Patti has basically been a part of the club since her husband joined, she wasn't an official member until recently, she said.
A major project the Evenings Lions just completed was for Soles4Souls, a nonprofit global social enterprise committed to fighting poverty through the collection and distribution of shoes and clothing.
The club, along with 22 other local Lions Clubs, collected and donated 17,294 pairs of shoes, said Bob, with Patti noting the Evening Lions collected 460 pairs. Bob said that 60 percent of the shoes are shipped throughout the United States, with 40 percent being shipped overseas. The shoes are either donated as is if they are in good enough shape, or they are repurposed, Patti said.
Another project the Dahlheimers said the Lions Club has been a part of is Can Do Canines. Dogs are used to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities. Dogs are used for people with hearing loss, mobility issues, seizures, diabetes and autism.
Bob and Patti have seen the Can Do Canines in action and have been thoroughly impressed. Patti shared a story of a woman who was deaf, and when tornado sirens were going off in the woman's neighborhood, her assist dog was able to get the woman to safety. In another instance, a family whose son had autism also used a Can Do Canine. Patti said when the child was on the floor in a fit of rage, the dog would crawl on top of the child and lay across his chest, which would help to calm the boy down and help him sleep.
Bob talked about the dogs who are trained to help people with diabetes and how they learn to recognize when blood sugar levels are low and can retrieve juice from a refrigerator and give it to the person.
"The dogs are amazing," they both repeatedly said.
In recognition of the Lions Club 100th year, Bob and Patti said the Evening Lions plan on celebrating with several projects throughout the entire year. There will be "bingo parties" to raise money for the local chapter of Special Olympics, said Bob.
"We want to try and keep as much money local and put it back into the community," he said.
There are plenty of other projects planned as well, they said.
To learn more about the Evening Lions Club, Bob and Patti said everyone is invited to check out a meeting. The meetings take place the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6 p.m. at Broadway Ballroom in Alexandria.
"We have a good club with young and old and men and women," Bob said. "It's a good mix of people."
For more information, contact Bob at (320) 763-3538 or any other Lions Club member.
History of Lions Club International
1917: Melvin Jones asked a simple and world-changing question — what if people put their talents to work improving their communities? Almost 100 years later, Lions Clubs International is the world's largest service club organization, with 1.35 million members in more than 46,000 clubs and countless stories of Lions acting on the same simple idea: let's improve our communities.
1920: Just three years after it was founded, Lions became international when it established the first club in Canada. Mexico followed in 1927. In the 1950s and 1960s, international growth accelerated, with new clubs in Europe, Asia and Africa.
1925: Helen Keller addressed the Lions Clubs International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, and challenged Lions to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness." Since then, the club has worked tirelessly to aid the blind and visually impaired.
1945: The ideal of an international organization is exemplified by the club's enduring relationship with the United Nations. It was one of the first nongovernmental organizations invited to assist in the drafting of the United Nations Charter and has supported the work of the UN ever since.
1957: In the late 1950s, the club created the Leo Program to provide the youth of the world with an opportunity for personal development through volunteering. There are approximately 144,000 Leos and 5,700 Leo clubs in more than 140 countries worldwide.
1968: Lions Clubs International Foundation assists Lions with global and large-scale local humanitarian projects. Through its foundation, Lions meet the needs of their local and global communities.
1990: Through SightFirst, Lions are restoring sight and preventing blindness on a global scale. Launched in 1990, Lions have raised more than $346 million for this initiative. SightFirst targets the major causes of blindness: cataract, trachoma, river blindness, childhood blindness, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.
Today: Lions Clubs International extends its mission of service every day, not only in local communities, but in all corners of the globe. The needs are great and its services broad, including sight, health, youth, elderly, the environment and disaster relief. The international network has grown to include more than 200 countries and geographic areas.