About Lions 

Lions are an international network of 1.4 million men and women in 210 countries and geographic areas who work together to answer the needs that challenge communities around the world.

Known for working to end preventable blindness, Lions participate in a vast variety of projects important to their communities. These projects range from cleaning up local parks to providing supplies to victims of natural disasters... where there's a need, there's a Lion

Beginning in 1917, the association of Lions clubs has provided millions of people with the opportunity to give something back to their communities.

 Continue reading below to learn about the history of Lions.


History of the East Haddam Community Lions Club

Although May 29, 1992 is the date that the East Haddam Community Lions Club was officially organized, the history of these dedicated citizens actually began many years before.

It all began on June 29, 1984; the date the East Haddam Lioness Club was formed under the sponsorship of the East Haddam Lions Club.  During the early years the East Haddam Lioness Club raised funds primarily with bake sales and food booths during local festivities.  As the club became more experienced, larger and more ambitious projects became the norm; among them the sales of an entertainment book and notepaper designed by local artists.  The major fundraisers were Military Whist and a fashion show.

The Lioness supported many civic projects.  They ran a drug awareness program as well as a children’s finger print identification program at the elementary school.  The club also contributed to families with special needs and supported a holiday food basket program.

When Lions Clubs International invited all Lioness Club members to become Lions, the club voted to form the East Haddam Community Lions Club, and with 36 charter members, a new chapter in this civic organization began.

The first officers were Diane (Pettit) Bielski, President, Jane Maxwell, First Vice President, Hazel Shurleff, Second Vice President, Angie Borgnine, Third Vice President, Judy Trotochaud, Secretary, and Dorothy Davies, Treasurer.

Now as a Lions Club, the East Haddam Community Lions Club continued their commitment to the community, District, and International projects.  Locally the Lions support the town libraries, local schools, youth groups, and annual LEHP screenings.  Projects of special note:  Meals on Wheels, delivering hot noon meals to the elderly who are home bound.  They were instrumental in the formation of a local food bank providing a helping hand to those who experienced temporary or long term financial hardship.

On the District and International level the club supports CLERF, the Low Vision Center of Eastern CT, LCIF and Sight First, just to name a few.

This club has had a number of its members serve the District with distinction.

Barbara Davis served as Zone Chairman in 1999-2000.

Diane (Pettit) Bielski served in numerous positions culminating with District Governor 2002-2003 and Council Chairman in 2003-2004.  Additionally she chaired the USA-Canada Forum and the Connecticut Lions Mid Winter Conference, has served as the Second and First Vice President of the Connecticut Lions Eye Research Foundation (CLERF), President  2009-20011.

John Bradshaw served as CLERF Chair for 5 years, one year as Zone Chair and Two years as Region Chair.

Linda Bradshaw served three years as CLERF Chair, two years as KidSight Chair three years as Zone Chair and Cabinet Secretary 2011-12

Maryjane Malavasi served one year as a Zone Chair and two years as Region Chair from 2019-2022.  She served as Treasurer for the Lions Low Vision Center in 2021-2022.

Jiffy Spencer served two years as Zone Chair from 2021-2022.

This inspired group of citizens, first as Lioness and now as Lions has been a credit to their community, to our District, and to Lions Clubs International.

History of Lions

The International Association of Lions Clubs began as the dream of a Chicago insurance man Melvin Jones, who wondered why local business clubs -- he was an active member of one -- could not expand their horizons from purely business concerns to the betterment of their communities and the world at large.

Jones' idea struck a chord within his own group, the Business Circle of Chicago, and they authorized him to explore his concept with similar organizations from around the United States. His efforts resulted in an organizational meeting at a local hotel on June 7, 1917.

The 12 men who gathered there overcame a natural sense of loyalty to their parent clubs, voted the "Association of Lions Clubs" into existence, and issued a call for a national convention to be held in Dallas, Texas, USA in October of the same year.

Thirty-six delegates representing 22 clubs from nine states heeded the call, approved the "Lions Clubs" designation, and elected Dr. William P. Woods of Indiana as their first president. Guiding force and founder Melvin Jones was named acting secretary. Thus began an association with Lionism that only ended with his death in 1961.

That first convention also began to define what Lionism was to become. A constitution and by-laws were adopted, the colors of purple and gold approved, and a start made on Lionism's Objectives and Code of Ethics.

One of the objects was startling for an era that prided itself on mercenary individualism, and has remained one of the main tenets of Lionism ever since. "No Club," it read, "shall hold out the financial betterment of its members as its object."

Community leaders soon began to organize clubs throughout the United States, and the association became "international" with the formation of the Windsor, Ontario, Canada Lions Club in 1920. Clubs were later organized in China, Mexico, and Cuba. By 1927, membership stood at 60 000 in 1 183 clubs.

In 1935, Panama became home to the first Central American club, with the first South American club being organized in Colombia the following year. Lionism reached Australia in 1947 and Europe in 1948, as clubs were chartered in Sweden, Switzerland, and France. In 1952, the first club was chartered in Japan.

The International Association of Lions Clubs is today the largest service organization in the world with over 1,4 million members in more than 43 300 clubs in 714 Districts covering 182 countries and geographic areas. Lions Clubs are not social clubs, although there are social benefits to membership. Lions Club members give their time, skills and resources to raise funds for charitable giving both in their communities and internationally.

The major focus of Lions fund raising activities is sight conservation, although other projects are pursued such as drug awareness programs in high schools, diabetes awareness programs and other programs that are specific to individual Clubs and Districts. Lions took up sight conservation as their major goal after a speech given by Helen Keller at the Lions International Convention held at Cedar Point, Ohio, in 1925. At that time, Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become "Knights of the Blind", a challenge that has become a rallying cry for Lions projects around the world. (Goto Sight Conservation links)

Lions work in the area of sight conservation is carried out at many levels. Individual Clubs sponsor free eye screening programs using mobile eye clinics. In many countries, Clubs sponsor eye surgery camps where cataract surgeries are performed at no charge for those that can't afford this medical care. Many clubs collect old eye glasses for distribution to the needy in other countries.

The International Association of Lions Clubs is the largest non-governmental organization associated with the United Nations and was called upon by the United Nations and the World Health Organization to raise funds for an international program of sight conservation. It has been estimated that 40 million cases of curable and preventable blindness exist on this planet today. Without intervention, this is projected to become 80 million by the end of the decade.

The International Association of Lions Clubs began a program of fund raising that they called "Campaign Sight First" in order to cure/prevent 40 million cases of blindness worldwide. Over $148,600,000 have been raised by Lions all over the world for this program. Eye hospitals are being built in the places that most need them. In India alone, over 300,000 cataract surgeries have been performed and that number is rapidly growing. Lions services to humanity range from purchasing eyeglass for a child who's parents can't afford them to multimillion dollar programs to cure blindness on a worldwide scale.


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