Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Oct. 29, 2001

What is this thing called Lions?

By Steve Weber
HL Lions Publicity Director

Over the next few weeks, you will hopefully become more informed on what the Howard Lake Lions about. This also will make you consider joining the world's largest and most effective community service organization, the International Association of Lions Clubs.

This club consists of more than 1.41 million members worldwide. There are almost 45,000 Lions clubs in 185 countries and geographical areas. Regardless of which language the members speak, religion they practice or politics they espouse, all Lions are dedicated to seeking out and helping those in need.

This week's installment will consist of a short history of Lions Club International.

History of Lions Club International

In 1917, a Chicago insurance agent named Melvin Jones convinced his luncheon club, the Business Circle of Chicago, that it should ally itself with other independent clubs to form a national organization that would be dedicated not only to networking for business and social purposes, but to the improvement of the community as a whole.

Among the groups invited was the Association of Lions Clubs, headquartered in Evansville, Ind. and led by Dr. W. P. Woods. At the time of the meeting, June 7, 1917, there were several Lions clubs already in existence, some having been organized in 1916. They were an outgrowth of the now-defunct fraternal organization called the Royal Order of Lions.

The Business Circle and other clubs agreed to rally under the Lions' name, and a convention was called for in October at Dallas, Texas. Thirty-six delegates representing 22 clubs from nine states heeded the call.

They approved the "Lions Clubs" designation and elected Dr. Woods as the first president. Guiding force and founder Melvin Jones was named acting secretary, thus beginning an association with Lions that ended only with his death in 1961.

This first convention in 1917 also began to define what the association was to become. A constitution and by-laws were adopted, the colors of purple and gold approved and a start made on the Lions Clubs Objects and Code of Ethics.

Remarkably considering the materialism of the era, both the Objects and Ethics encouraged Lions to put service ahead of profit and to uphold the highest standards of conduct in business and the professions.

Community leaders began to organize clubs throughout the U.S. The association became truly "international' with the formation of a club in Windsor, Ontario, Canada in 1920. Clubs were later organized in Mexico, China, and Cuba.By 1927, just ten short years later, membership stood at 60,000 in 1,183 clubs.

Perhaps the single event having the greatest impact on the association's service commitment occurred in 1925. That is when Helen Keller addressed the Lions at their International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio. It was there that she challenged the Lions to become "Knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness."

In 1935, Panama became home to the first Central America club. The first club in South America was organized in Colombia the following year. Sweden, followed by France brought Europe into the association in 1948.

Japan had clubs by 1952, and the so-called "Eastern Bloc" was unblocked in 1989 with the formation of clubs in Hungary, Poland, and Estonia. In 1990, a club was chartered in Moscow, and today over one hundred clubs are demonstrating the value of service in countries once closed to voluntary action.

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