Lions Clubs International began as the dream of Melvin Jones, an American businessman who belonged to a club named the Business Circle of Chicago. Melvin Jones believed that local business clubs should expand from purely professional concerns to working for the betterment of their communities.

In 1917, he contacted members of similar independent organizations around the country, and invited them to a meeting. Most agreed to merge as one association of clubs, taking the name of the largest of the groups, the Indiana-based Association of Lions Clubs. The first convention was held in October in Dallas, Texas, where the constitution was adopted and the first president, Dr. W.P. Woods, was elected. Jones was elected secretary, beginning a 44-year career with the association.

In 1920, Lions Clubs became international when the first club outside of the U.S.  was chartered in Windsor Ontario, Canada and since then steady growth has continued around the world. Today Lions Clubs International has nearly 1.4 million members in approximately 46,000 clubs in 206 countries and geographical areas of the world.

We Are There

Melvin Jones, the man whose personal code "You can't get very far until you start doing something for somebody else" became a guiding principle for public-spirited people all over the world, died June 1, 1961 at the age of 82. Today, Lions Clubs all over the world, keep his memory alive by Honoring their most dedicated members with a MELVIN JONES plaque.


An early milestone in the Lions history occurred in 1925 when Helen Keller addressed the association at their International Convention in Ohio, USA. She challenged Lions to become her "Knights of the Blind in the Crusade against Darkness." Ever since, the primary mission of Lions Clubs International has been to rid the world of preventable and reversible blindness and provide services for people who are already blind or visually impaired.

Helen Keller was an American author and lecturer, who, having overcome considerable physical handicaps, served as an inspiration for other afflicted people. When she was 19 months old, she was stricken with an acute illness that left her deaf and blind. She overcame these setbacks to earn a college degree with honors.
Throughout her life she worked and raised funds for the American Foundation for the Blind, and she traveled and lectured in many countries, including England, France, Italy, Egypt, South Africa, Australia, and Japan on behalf of the physically handicapped.

The Lions work with the blind started in its early stages, but it was in 1930 that the President of the Peoria Lions Club, in the United States, saw a problem and developed a solution that has spread throughout the world.

Lion George A. Bonham observed a blind man trying to cross a busy street as traffic whirled about him. The man tapped furiously on the pavement with his black cane, but no one understood his problem. Lion Bonham came up with the idea of supplying blind people with white canes to alert others, and he introduced a resolution to the city of Peoria to give the right-of-way to any blind person using a white cane.

From this humble beginning, by 1956 every state in the United States had passed white cane safety laws which included those blind persons employing the help of guide dogs.

The white cane has become an international symbol and a blessing to those without sight.


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