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.

Day 57-SIP-Volunteer to Serve

There is no question but that the COVID-19 is still very active in my county. Today’s report added 77 new cases of confirmed Corona virus. That brings our total to 3,973 cases. I’d like to see it coming down, but there are a lot of other things I would like too, but never seem to get my wish.

Every year at this time I would like to see so many people step up and want to be leaders in our local Lions Club that we have to turn people away. That hasn’t happened yet. Why is it that whenever a person is asked to take on a leadership role he/she shirks the responsibility? Only a very few special people want to lead. The remainder are satisfied being led.

My experience with volunteer groups spreads over a span of fifty years and many organizations, and it volunteering to lead hasn’t changed. Even worse yet, I have still not learned the secret of recruiting successfully. One thing I did learn however, is that people want to belong to an active moving club with a positive attitude. Nobody wants to join a negative, sorry-assed, dead club, and I don’t blame them. Why would I join a club whose reputation is for doing nothing. When I join something it is because i believe in the activities and function of the club. When I joined a bicycle club I joined because I wanted to meet bike riders who I could ride with. Riding alone most of the time is boring. I joined the Boy Scouts of America because i wanted my son to have a decent Troop to join into. I joined the Garden club because I was tired of killing plants and wanted to learn how to make flowers grow. I first joined the Lions because I needed something to deflect the grief I suffered from my wife’s death. Then, after I joined and learned what a great organization they are I dedicated my life to helping our club to serve the community.

As President of the Frankfort Lions I conducted a survey to determine how to make the club serve more. One of the things I learned was that most people join because they want to ‘give back.’ They feel so blessed with their own life that they want to extend that same gift to others within their community. My philosophy has always been that serving the club as an officer is serving the community, and qualifies as ‘giving back.’

An organization that is over a hundred years old and still growing has to have something going for it. Lions are pushing 1.5 millions members in over 200 countries, and in 45,000 clubs. We all follow the same goals, the same ethics, the same constitution and by-laws. Only our languages, customs, and ethnicities differ.

When I first joined I learned that Lions were challenged by Helen Keller to become the Knights of the Blind. At the time I didn’t know a single blind person and thought that perhaps the need for helping the blind has diminished since 1925 when she made the challenge. I was wrong. The number of people who are blind is growing. As the population ages more and more of us is affected by age related macular degeneration. The longer one lives the better his chances of losing vision becomes.

A detailed macro shot of a blue woman human eye.
Lions Of Illinois Foundation Mobile Hearing and Vision Screening Vans

By a process of evolution I have become involved in helping the blind. First by manning our specially equipped mobile vision screening van. We schedule a date for the van and invite the public to come and get thier eyes screened for diseases like diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and more. More recently, I helped initiate a children’s vision screening program within our village. Lions purchased a special camera to measure the eye. The camera compares measurements to what is normal. If a measurement is out of the normal range it alerts us to send that kid to get his eyes examined by a professional. So far, we have screened two thousand kids and we’ve alerted two hundred. Many of those 200 kids now wear glasses to make their vision better.

Lions learned that pre-school aged kids have problems that can be corrected before a kid starts kindergarten. Yet, most school districts will not require testing until a kid enters first grade. Lions believe that if a pre-schooler is screened and found to have a problem that his eyes can be corrected by the time he enters school. All kids should have the same advantage for an education. If one of them has a problem seeing the materials he is at a disadvantage.

Frankfort Lions Conduct a Vision Screening at Movie on the Green Where They Also Distribute Free Pop Corn

Since COVID-19 we have put our screening programs on hold, and we hope there is some way to get them rolling again soon. Stay tuned I’m working on it.