Chugging Ahead

The ugly word COVID shut down a successful Lions Program to screen the eyes of pre-school children in Frankfort. The Lions began the program in 2015 supported by then Lion President Sue Wolf, Lion Al Russo and myself. Our philosophy for the club was to involve as many members as possible in projects that help the community. Over the past eighty some years our club evolved into a “check writing club.” Most of the old timers tired themselves out with too many fund raising activities. Each project that involved the need for spending money became a fund raising event. For instance, the tiny village lacked street signs, so Lions raised money to buy street signs and then they installed them. The same went for the first fire truck, and snow plow.

As new members became involved they brought new ideas with them. Why not involve the entire community in our fund raiser by establishing a festival with a major raffle? The very first attempt was the Sour Kraut Festival which featured German food, beer, and music. The first prize in the raffle was a Cadillac and tickets were twenty dollars each. Back in the late sixties a Cadillac could be bought for five thousand dollars, and twenty dollars was a month’s worth of groceries. To enter the festival, one needed a raffle ticket, allowed two people to get into the venue, and was a coupon for two beef sandwiches. Lions raised enough money to fund a year’s worth of charitable giving.

Many years have passed and the Frankfort Lions became a lethargic group. They met regularly for a meal, card games, smoking, and a good time. At their Board of Director meetings they decided which charities to donate to. Largest among them were two projects, first were scholarships for local high school kids, second was providing groceries for families in need at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. The treasurer wrote checks for all the other charities.

Our membership began to dwindle. When I joined, the total roster was fifty members, down from 135 at it’s peak. Since then, we have rebuilt the membership to seventy-five. As President I took a survey of the members. One question was “Why did you join the Lions?” The single most popular answer was “to help the community.” I worked hard to bring in new activities that could involve more members. Not every one is interested in the same thing. The more variety we have in activities the more members can volunteer. Of course, some Lions volunteer for every project, but I like to see a few new faces at each one.

Getting back to the vision screening, last week we restarted the program, and since have screened 124 children ages 3 to 5 and have found 8 who needed further examinations. Most likely these kids will come home with glasses.

Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become “Knights of the Blind” at the first Lions convention in 1926 and they have taken this challenge seriously. We have learned that learning is very visual, and that kids in the pre-school age group have problems which can be cured by the time they enter school. This puts them on a level learning field with their fellow students. All kids should have the same opportunity to learn.

In summary: Frankfort Lions screened 2100 kids in the four years before the Covid shut down, 170 were found to have a vision problem. This week we screened 124 and found 8, or 6.5% with a problem. This screening program is like finding a needle in a haystack, but by consistently pursuing the National average of seven percent we will do our part to improve the lives of our community.

A total of seven Lion members were involved in conducting the screenings, two of them never worked an event before.

Thank You Friends

Yesterday, the Frankfort Lions Club held the yearly Wurst Fest, and I want to thank all of my friends who came. The Wurst is a fun time to raise money for the club charities account. We cannot help the community without funds, and it is your generosity that keeps our momentum going. The Lions International by-laws stipulate that all monies derived from the public must be returned to the public. The Frankfort Lions faithfully keep that resolution, whether it is for street signs, a village snow plow, or food pantry support it comes from your donations; thank you. At the same time, if we want to treat the members to dinner, or to have fun, we pay for it out of pocket. Mostly we have internal fund raisers which we keep separate from the charities.

I managed to hold the line on the quantity of alcohol I imbibed so I am not tired today. As I write this I am thinking of how many house in the house details remain unfinished. My list of baby steps will aid me in getting things done.

Imagine

Why I don’t know, but this idea came to me in a dream. Maybe it was the result to a fruitful board meeting with my Lions Club, or maybe it was the cookie I had before going to bed. I dreamed that I stood before my Lions Club and asked them to close their eyes and visualize a scene that our tiny club just completed a fund raising drive and we raised a million ($1,000,000.00) dollars. We’d be so happy, jumping up and down happy. Now begin to see all the things you would use that money to serve our community. What would we do? Now visualize yourself writing down all the possibilities.

The dream wouldn’t end. I just kept looking for answers to my question, how would we use the million to serve our community? Frankfort is a small town (20,000). It is not by any means poor, but there are folks among us that can use help. Nevertheless, we have social network systems in place, we have school districts flush with cash, we have a park district with twenty-eight separate parks scattered throughout the town. Our roads are in good condition, we have street signs and street lights, a public library, several urgent care centers, and get this, four supermarkets, four pharmacies, four fire houses, a 38 man police department and the list goes on. Push harder, you have to dream up how to serve the community with the million dollar treasury.

In my dream, I struck out of any ideas. That is until I began to see new immigrants coming into town. In the past year the USA has allowed two million new immigrants to enter, half of them legally, the other half just walk in and get lost. They will need housing, but there is no low cost housing in Frankfort, perhaps we should develop a tiny house community, or a free eye clinic for vision problems, or a Lions re-sale shop to compete with Goodwill, the Resale Shoppe, and Evelinas’s Red Dresser. Probably the most realistic idea is to build a not for profit business which would serve the club, and the community as a meeting or party venue. You know, a dance hall with a bar and kitchen.

Actually, I am going to present this exercise to the Frankfort Lions Club, and this post is the first draft of a script that I will use. Let me know if you have any ideas to add.

Lost In Busy-ness

Writing posts for Grumpa Joes Place have taken the back seat to two big projects in my life. The first is a Lions club thing which I will explain below. The second is a personal project inside my house. All other projects like making art, reading, etc have dropped to the bottom of the list.

  • The Lions Club thing. As the Club Service Chair it is my job to come up with ways to serve the community. An active club is one that has many hands-on projects as well as one that writes checks. For too many years my club has languished in stagnation being satisfied with writing checks. The forefathers of forty years ago decided that it was more efficient to organize a once a year fund raiser which would fund all of our service in the community. As time passed the membership dwindled from 130 to fifty, and that became the topic of our board meetings. All of us were in a quandry about how to turn things around. Some of the loss was a normal nationwide trend experienced by all service clubs. People just didn’t join anymore.
  • After ten years in the club, I accepted the presidency. The first thing I did was to set some new goals for myself and the club. We needed to change the culture of the organization from one of check writing to one of activity. I was highly criticized by members young and old that with limited numbers we couldn’t do everything. I analyzed the membership and their participation in activities, I surveyed them with questions like “why did you join a Lions Club?” The number one answer was “I want to give back.” The activity analysis pointed out that the Pareto principle was working well within our organization. Exactly twenty percent of the members were responsible for eighty percent of the activities.
  • I studied Lions Clubs International guides about how to run a club, about how to run a project, about how to determine what the community needs are. I was on the right track with my goals. Thankfully, I had another Lion on my side and between the two of us we began signing up for activities throughout the village. Polar Express, Bunny Breakfast, Rib Fest, Movies on the Green, all of these involved a few members and a short period of time. Yes, the same twenty percent of active members were still active, but more so, and we began to see new faces show up. It was my philosophy that the many members needed many different types of activity to interest them. With variety and short duration the participation began to grow. We still write checks, and we still have a large fund raiser every year, but we also have a lot more, and we are now up to seventy-two members.
  • Currently, as Club Service Chair, I suggested we do some things for the homeless. I suggested a Winter Coat Drive. The board liked it. I jumped at the opportunity, and within a week we had collection-boxes scattered about the village. That stimulated a need for publicity. Wallah, a member stepped up to a post on our Facebook page and our website. Others agreed to empty the boxes. We found a location to store the coats. Then, organized a sorting session to separate them into men’s, women’s, and children’s, and to bag them in counts of ten. With a system in place we could deliver them to the charities easily. We distributed 735 coats throughout the Township. More importantly our members were excited. The question on the table was “what’s next?” I figured that perhaps a clean pair of socks would be appreciated by someone who had nothing. I turned out to be right. Luckily, my Sock Drive committee decided to approach the grammar schools to assist. Fortunately, the Principals and teachers bought in to the idea, and they added to the fun by proposing a competition between classrooms. The Lions promised to award the winners with a pizza party lunch. We wound up collecting 23,000 pairs of socks.
  • A year passed and it was winter again. The schools asked us to partner again. Yes, we would. This time I asked them to choose from a list of possibles. They ignored my suggestions and decided to collect personal hygiene items: tooth paste, tooth brushes, soap, deodorant, shampoo, etc. We agreed, and found a hundred boxes to distribute in the schools, one for every room. Same deal, pizza party to the winners, except we allowed a first and second place this time. Well, this is why I haven’t posted during March. The collection began on March 1st, and we quickly realized we would need a truck to haul the stuff. The kids counted a total of 21,000 items. All of it is heavier than socks. Nevertheless, Lions jumped in, and within fifteen days we sorted, classified, re-boxed everything into manageable sizes, and delivered it all to sixteen separate charities. Whew!
A Small Order Packed and Ready to Deliver
The Order For Hines VA Homeless Vets

Lions Sorting Into Categories
Lion President Rick and His Wife Elaine Prepare an Order for Trinity Services
  • The personal thing. My wife lovely and I invited her only living relative to live with us, her grandson. He currently lives in his deceased father’s house which is a rented place filled with furniture and goodies accumulated over eight years. He reached a point where living with his father’s ghost was too much to handle emotionally. So, we are rearranging our home to accommodate all the stuff he will bring with him. We are in effect marrying two complete homes into one space. For the next two months I’ll be living in interesting times.

Five Hundred and Fifty and Done

This morning I conveniently dropped my wife off at the local shopping plaza to do Christmas shopping and then returned home. I grabbed a quick cup of coffee as I texted the Frankfort Lions Club Winter Coat Team to join me in the final coat sort. An hour later I was on the stage at the Founder’s Center where we are storing coats until they are processed. I like ot tell people that we will be on stage singing and dancing as we sort and bag coats. I always get a strange look. As I arrived I spotted Lion Louise dragging a large bag of coats up to the stage. She is my first lieutenant on the team. We dragged our sorting tables into place and attacked the pile of coats. The job is simple we merely place men’s, women’s, and children’s coats onto separate tables. The hardest part of the job is to tell the difference between a man’s and a women’s coat, followed by a teenager’s coat versus an older person’s coat. We don’t take a lot of time to decide it is simpler to make a mistake than it is to eat up time figuring it out.

Lion Mike showed up and I got him started bagging; ten to a bag all of the same gender. Close the bag and mark it with a piece of duct tape designating the gender, M, W, or C. It’s hard work, but somebody has to do it. Within forty-five minutes the three of us had sixteen bags of coats ready for delivery. I pushed the envelope and asked Louise or Mike if they were interested in delivering. Louise raised her hand to take sixty coats to the New Lenox Food Pantry on Monday, they are closed on Saturdays. Mike was headed into the direction of Morningstar Mission resale shop in New Lenox and said he would take sixty coats to them. That left me with forty coats which I drove over to the Salvation Army donation center in Chicago Heights.

The 2021 Winter Coat Drive is formally completed. All total we collected 550 coats from 1 November thru 15 December and delivered them to: The Frankfort Township Food Pantry, The South Suburban Crisis Center serving battered women, The Kibby & Vainney Angles NFP Inc,. serving the homeless of Joliet, Morningstar Mission, and the New Lenox Township Food Pantry. I estimate the dollar value of these used coats to be $5500.00, a sizable donation to the community. The Frankfort Lions have impacted five hundred and fifty people in need at a time when a coat is most appreciated.

Most of us don’t think about what life would be like without a coat to keep us warm during the cold months, but there are people among us who know what I’m talking about. The people who live on the street throughout the winter months are among the ones we target with this drive. I extend my fondest gratitude and thanks to those who donated coats, many with price tags still attached. We know you sacrificed to help others. The Frankfort Food Pantry has 300 families registered, and they are who we service first. I wish them a very warm and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.