This is the tale of two non-profit organizations that faced seemingly insurmountable hardships and formed a mutually beneficial partnership so that each could continue to provide vital services to their community.
The Key West Lion Club was established in1938. In 1960, it initiated the Dr. Jose Sanchez Lions Eye Clinic providing funding for eye examinations, eye glasses and cataract surgery for low-income Florida Keys residents and played and essential role in the community.
Literacy Volunteers of America (LVA) - Monroe County, Inc., was established in 1984 in the belief that the ability to read, write and communicate in English is critical to one’s personal freedom. They provide free, confidential, one-to-one and small literacy instruction from a trained, certified volunteer. Since their inception they have assisted over 4800 residents achieve their personal goals through increased literacy skills.
In 2005, Hurricane Wilma caused significant damage to the Lions clubhouse; a dwindling membership, combined with the economic crisis of 2008 ultimately forced the closure of the eye clinic in 2014. Meanwhile, the LVA had been shuffled from pillar to post every year from 2010, ultimately losing its home within the Monroe County Public School System in 2014 with no prospects in sight.
After more than seventy-five years of loyalty and service to the community the Key West Lions Club had hit rock bottom with only three members remaining and was on the brink of surrendering its charter. A desperate LVA President and Board of Directors made the Lions Club an offer to rent office and classroom space, help find funds to repair the building and to become Lions.
In one fell swoop LVA had a home, the Lions Club welcomed enthusiastic new members and, as if by magic, the funds appeared. Today, LVA classes are full and club membership is on the rise.
In the fall of 2015, we held our first joint fundraiser - a real Key West fried fish dinner with homemade black beans, yellow rice and all the fixin’s including Key Lime pie. It was a sign to the community that the Key West Lions Club through its partnership with and support of LVA that it was well on its way to a proud comeback.
The Dr. Jose Sanchez Lions Eye Clinic is once again open and filling the vision need of our less fortunate citizens. Our future looks bright!
Lions Clubs International is the world's largest service club organization with more than 1.4 million members in approximately 46,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas around the world.