It often starts with the sound of a fax machine receiving an application. From there, a phone call and a visit to a stranger follow, and in many cases, a member of the Columbus East Lions Club approves a request for assistance in obtaining a new pair of glasses. Following the organization”s motto of “We Serve,” the club has worked to serve those in the community who have needed assistance to have their sight restored. On April 30, the Columbus East Lions will celebrate 50 years of such service.
Howard Jenkins, a member of the club who has served as an international director, said making it to a 50th year is a milestone for a club.
“There is a large percentage of clubs that don”t make it this far,” said Jenkins.
“The district governor at the time, Stells Minyard from Winona, personally came to Columbus himself and started working on starting the club,” said Jenkins. Jenkins said Minyard called on the services of a local minister, the Rev. Prentiss Gordon, to recruit members into the new club. Gordon succeeded in his efforts, as he brought in 50 charter members.
According to Jenkins, the Columbus East Lions were quick to start helping those needing assistance in the community. Jenkins said the club immediately started doing fundraising and service projects in their first year of existence. While the names and faces of the club members have changed over the years, Jenkins said one constant has been the helping spirit exhibited by members of the club. “In our particular club, a majority of the members have a real passion for helping people,” said Jenkins. “That is what it takes. You have to have that passion to reach those around us who need our help.”
Jenkins expects the number of those needing help to increase, especially as tough economic times continue.
“In each of the last two years, we worked over 100 sight cases, and if you add in our hearing cases, that number increases,” said Jenkins. “We have already received 134 applications this year, and we will probably go over the 150 mark.”
While the club has helped in communitywide events such as Clean-up Columbus, Jenkins said the main focus of the club is helping those with sight and hearing problems. Jenkins said the club hears about people in need of help through a variety of sources such as school nurses, community counselors and eye doctors. Jenkins said the club works hard to help those who need help.
“All someone has to do is fill out an application, and we will evaluate that application,” said Jenkins. “If they are approved, we will refer them to an optometrist to get their glasses. There is no charge to the individual.”
“On behalf of Lions Club International, I would like to congratulate the members of the Columbus East Lions Club on their 50th charter celebration,” said Maurice Kahawaii, a current international director of the Lions Club. “I believe this club will continue to provide projects like sight and hearing screenings, diabetes testing and youth camps for the blind and physically challenged in this area. The members of the Columbus East Lions Club have exemplified the persona of everyday heroes.”
While Jenkins agrees that the Columbus East Lions will continue to serve those in the community, he does wonder what form that service will take. “I see this club continuing sight and hearing service programs and increasing its role in community involvement,” said Jenkins. “It is hard to imagine what new opportunities may be presented to the Lions in the future. There have been so many changes in eye care in the last 50 years. So many of the things done today would have been unheard of 50 years ago.”
For more information about the Columbus East Lions or their services, visit www.columbuseastlions.com.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.