The year is 1917. I remember it well. Not exactly! The U.S. Bought the Danish West Indies for 25 million dollars and quickly rename them the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Russian Revolution begins, the Czar abdicates and is later murdered along with his family. The United States enters the Great War and Canada proves its courage and strength at Vimy Ridge. Halifax harbour is destroyed when the Mont Blanc explodes. And to the delight of the youngsters, Raggedy Ann appears in stores.
And Melvin Jones…whoa…who is Melvin Jones. Melvin Jones was a Chicago insurance man and chair of his local business club. In June, he challenged his membership to use their business skills to improve their community. And the Lions Club was born, one hundred years ago. Since then over 200 countries have embraced the aims and ideals of Lionism which is basically “We Serve.” In 1920, the first Lions club was founded in Windsor, Ontario. Today, there are over 1.4 millions Lions around the world. And that does not include the four footed ones!
Why the Lion? Certain traits of the lion appealed to the founders of the club. They especially appreciated the strength, courage, activity and loyalty of the regal beast. The logo features two lions on either side of a blue circular shape with a large gold “L” in the middle. They face away from the centre, symbolizing looking back to the past and forward to the future. On top in gold is “Lions”, and below is “International”.
In 1925, Helen Kellar addressed a Lions convention and first used the phrase,”Knights of the Blind.” To this day the main focus of Lionism has funded major programs worldwide to help the visually impaired. To this day, June 1st is Helen Kellar Day..a day when Lions International introduces new programs for the blind.
Until 1968, local clubs dedicated themselves to mainly local needs. Then Lions International was formed to extend programs worldwide. In 1984 Lions Quest, a program for elementary schools was introduced and used in Espanola schools for years. “Sight First”, “Opening Eyes”, and “Sight for Kids”, were a few of many programs funded by Lions International. $15 million dollars was given to alleviate the misery of the South Asian Tsunami in 2004. Other Lions International aid programs included: $5million to Hurricane Katrina; &6million to Haiti; $12 million to Japan following the devastating earthquake in 2011; $12 million to support the “One Shot, One Life” program. This program was co-ordinated with the Gates Foundation to inoculate millions of children for measles.
So since 1968, Lions International has donated just over $1 billion. “We Serve!”
As Lionism enters its second century, your local club will continue to serve our local communities as best we can.