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Introduction

The Sun never sets on the Lions Club. How is that? It is the largest service organization in the World and is in most every country. There is a Lions Club Meeting or a Lions Club project being held at almost every moment somewhere in the World. The Aiken Lions Club is part of this International Service Organization.

A Lions Club was organized in Aiken, S.C. on June 24, 1935. There were thirty-two charter members, consisting of a broad cross-section of the Aiken community. Col. John A. May served as the first president for two Lion years, from 1935 through 1937. He was a lawyer and noted historian in the Aiken area. The last of the charter members, until his passing, was Lion Sam Koon. In his later years, he retained his membership as a member-at-large.

Long-time Aiken Mayor, H. Odell Weeks was a charter member, and was so until his death in early 1993. He was the longest serving Mayor of Aiken (1951-1991) and was commended for this accomplishment by Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. Mayor Weeks was inducted into the South Carolina Lions Hall of Fame in 1992.

In 1939, the Aiken Lions Club purchased a 4.61 acre tract of land. A club house was completed in 1941 for the purpose of holding regular Lions meetings, as well as special meetings and events. The club house was 3.5 miles northwest of town adjoining highway 19 and Interstate 20. Proceeds from a carnival event sponsored by the Aiken Lions Club are where the funds came from to begin the construction of the facility, affectionately referred-to as the "Lions Hut". A loan, used to complete the construction, was paid in full on Jun 12, 1945.

The Aiken Lions Club is said to be the oldest civic club in the County of Aiken. Most people are aware of what the Lions Organization stands-for and some of its major objectives. But, to gain a better understanding, we need to learn about the organization's founder, the role that Helen Keller played early-on and the accomplishments world-wide and locally here in Aiken. All of these areas are covered in the remaining document headings to the left. Note: a list of Aiken Lions club officers, from club charter until now, are available in club records. Additionally, detailed, personal accomplishments of many of our past and present members have been recorded. Interested parties may contact our Board of Directors for this information.

Lions Founder

The Founder of “Lions Clubs International” was a man named, Melvin Jones. He was born on January 13th, 1879 at Fort Thomas, Arizona at a time when the West remained unsettled. The Apache Indians were making their last stand against the white man’s encroachment on their land. At age 7 or 8, his family moved from the Arizona Territory. His memories of that time were of Horses, Soldiers, bugles and war cries, wagon trains, settlers and dust.

 

Melvin Jones at age 33 was the sole owner of his own insurance agency in Chicago, Illinois. He became a member of the local business circle. After a couple of years, he felt that as businessmen with a degree of influence, their talents could be better utilized in other areas of community life. He felt that their success was owed to the people, or the community and he and other businessmen should give something back to the community they served.

After pursuing this thought for 4 years, they formed what is now known as the Lions Club International. The infant organization had 20 delegates representing 27 clubs from around the country. The association became international in 1920 when the Lions of Detroit chartered the Windsor Ontario Lions Club in Canada.

 

In 1950, Melvin Jones, who was born on a cavalry outpost in Camp Thomas, Arizona, was conferred the title of Secretary General of Lions International for life. Since that time, Lions Organizations have grown to over 1.3 Million members in over 45,000 clubs. That is another reason why it is said that, “The Sun never sets on a Lions club"

Melvin Jones, the founder of this great service organization, died in 1961. His philosophy of life “You can't get very far until you start doing something for somebody else” lives in the Lion’s Motto, “We Serve”.

In 1961, the International Board of Directors proclaimed January 13th (Melvin Jones Birthday) as a day of memory each year throughout the world of Lionism. January has become know as Melvin Jones Memorial Month. All donations from individuals or clubs of $250.00, $500.00 or $1,000.00 are suitably recognized on the “Wall of Fame”, which is mounted in the Melvin Jones Lions International Memorial building in Arizona for all to view.

Helen Keller's Influence

Helen Keller, during a speech given to the Lions International Convention, held in Ohio in 1925, Challenged the organization to become “Knights of the Blind”. This gave the Lions International their main mission.

Helen Keller lost her vision and hearing at the age of 19 Months. Most young people of today recognize the name, but they don’t know any details of her life. She was trapped in darkness and ignorance until the momentous day that a young women named Annie Sullivan held her hand under a water pump and spelled out “Water”. That spark of understanding of language unleashed Keller’s great intelligence and drive.

She mastered Braille in five languages, became the first deaf and blind person to earn a bachelor’s degree and then enjoyed a long, storied public career as a lecturer and activist. Helen Keller passed away June 1st, 1968, but her legacy is certainly assured among Lions. Her connection with Lions is prominently featured on the web site of The Lions International. Since her convention challenge, Lions have worked tirelessly to aid the blind and help the visually impaired.

Lions Today World-wide

Today Lions not only dedicate themselves to the visually impaired but also to programs for preventable and corrective eye diseases. They are involved with the hearing impaired as well as youth programs. The Lions are involved with programs dealing with diabetes, its cause and cure as well as disaster aid programs all over the world.

The Lions Club International is led by talented , dedicated volunteer leaders from around the world and is supported by the LCIF ( Lions Club International Foundation), which helps fund Lions humanitarian projects. More than 680 Million dollars in grants have been awarded by the LCIF since 1968.

Since Lions Clubs were established, Lions have been dedicated to giving back to their communities. Many clubs provide parks, playgrounds, senior citizen programs and medical care for those in need.

There are many other activities in addition to sight conservation that Lions Clubs involve themselves in. They solicit eye donors, assist the hearing impaired, provide diabetes awareness and educational materials, drug abuse prevention, work with environmental projects and develop youth programs.

Lion members, men and women, provide immediate and sustained relief in time of disaster and offer long term assistance to those in need. Lions collect and recycle eyeglasses for distribution in developing countries and treat millions of people to prevent "river blindness". Fifty-five million treatments have been given in Africa and South Africa.

If you have never heard of “river blindness”, it is a gruesome disease prevalent in Africa. It is caused by the bite of a tiny black fly infected with a parasite. The parasite releases worms inside the body. The worms lay eggs. An infected person may be plagued by as many as 150 Million first-stage larvae inside their body. A person experiences severe itching and rashes before blindness sets-in.

In China, two Million cataract operations were done in four years. Trachoma, an age-old infectious disease that causes blindness is being controlled in three African nations through the efforts of the LCIF (Lions Club International Foundation).

Lions Today in Aiken

In addition to what the Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF) does on a global basis, there are many projects that the Aiken Lions Clubs involve themselves in locally. Aiken has two clubs at present: One is the noon day club and the other meets in the evening (note: this website pertains to the evening club).

The Aiken Evening club tries to have the state screening unit, The Mobile Eye Clinic , as often as possible , for screening local residents for Glaucoma and other health issues. There have been many local people that have been diagnosed in time to get adequate treatment as a result of the screenings. It is free to the public, funded by the Lions organization.

The Aiken Lions collect eyeglasses and hearing aids for recycling. Local eye doctors, Ophthalmologist and Opticians help by collecting eyeglasses for the Lions club. Individuals often collect glasses and save them for us. There are several drop-off points where persons can donate old glasses that they no longer need. The condition of the frames is of no concern since the lens are removed and categorized for future use in developing countries, where they are needed.

The Aiken Lions club is involved in many projects locally as well as nationally. One project is an outing called, “Blind Fishing Day”. It is held once a year, and it places a Lions member with a blind person for a day of fishing on Lake Marion or Lake Moultrie. The effort is supported by contributions from the Club. The club also supports the “Golden Harvest Food Bank” by contributing money annually. We also support the American Diabetes Association and the “ Helping Hands” organization in Aiken.

The Aiken Club has furnished seeing-eye dogs for several people in Aiken County over the years. One recipient, Nancy Knowles of Aiken is a member of the Aiken Lions Club and has traveled with her dog all around the nation doing programs and making speeches about the “Leader Dog” program. This is a program that sends a qualifying blind person to Rochester, Michigan to be trained to use a guide dog, that is specifically matched to that person.

There are dogs trained to be the eyes of a blind person and the ears of a person that is hearing impaired. Most people think of Lions as concerned only with the blind, but as you can see, they are involved with many facets of the needs of humanity. The two local Clubs perform much needed services that are very beneficial to the residents of Aiken county, especially during tough economic times.

Funding and Membership

Where does the money come from to fund all these services? The funds come from the many projects that the Lions do each year to raise money. We sell brooms continually all year long as well as having special broom sales at certain locations around the County. Our major fund raising activity is called “The Dick Flynt Memorial Golf Tournament”. It is held once a year in memory of Dick Flynt, who was a devoted Lion as well as the local Pontiac Dealer for many years. We also raise funds by supplying Lions and others to work at the Masters Par-3 tournaments. All the money, collected from the various projects, goes back into the community. The dues of the individual members help toward the administration of Lions Club International.

You may ask, “What can I do to support the efforts of the Lions in their quest to be of service to humanity"? The answer is simple: Purchase a Lions Club broom when you need one; contribute when you see Lions club members giving out candy at the local shopping areas etc; Play Golf in our Tournament or help with a contribution to underwrite the expense of putting on the tournament.

It takes a lot of money to meet the needs and to supply the services to the people that truly need those services. But, another way you can support the Lions and their efforts is to become a Lion Member. Give a little of your time to give back to your community. The needs are many, and we need your help.

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