Lions Club celebrating century of service

ELKINS — This year, the International Lions Club is celebrating a century of service to communities around the world.

The Lions Club of Elkins will be celebrating the international club’s 100 years of service, in addition to the local club’s 66 years of service at 2 p.m. Saturday at Elkins Middle School.

The club will provide snacks, have various displays showcasing the club’s efforts and club members will also speak about different activities they organize.

Over the years, the Elkins Lions Club has been very active in the community as they are the leaders of several projects, including providing eyeglasses to local people.

The club provides an average of 50 pairs of glasses annually to people in communities including Elkins, Beverly, Montrose and Harman. According to the group, this averages nearly $5,000 per year.

“Elkins Middle School LEO members also collect 80 to 100 pairs of used eyeglasses each year, which are donated to Lion-sponsored programs for people in other countries who do not see well,” Corley said.

In addition, schools in the Elkins area also benefit from the club’s efforts as they actively visit for a number of programs.

Every year, the Lions Club of Elkins visits local elementary schools and Elkins Middle School for reading activities that often include puppetry.

“In recent years, hundreds of students have been entertained by our stories and sometimes our antics in the classroom,” Lion Jane Corley said.

Every fall, the Lions Club of Elkins sponsors a Peace Poster contest at Elkins Middle School.

“Students are given a poster board and instruction about the rules and theme of the Lions International Peace Poster Contest for the current contest year,” Corley said.

This year, the EMS winner this year was Lydia Blackburn, a sixth-grade student. Blackburn won a $25 prize from the club and her poster advanced to the District 29-I competition.

“Her poster was one of approximately 100 submitted for judging and was selected for originality of her work, its artistic merit and her portrayal of this year’s theme ‘A Celebration of Peace,'” Corley said.

Also at EMS, in October 2009, Jane Corley and John Croston became advisors for the new Elkins Middle School LEO Club sponsored by the Lions Club of Elkins. The student members of the club meet during school club periods approximately twice a month throughout the school year. Activities throughout the year focus on service projects, leadership skills and education about the needs of people who do not see well.

Since the club was formed, the EMS LEO members have been involved in several projects.

“The first few years, they worked to earn money to donate to the Pilot Dog program in Columbus, Ohio and went on a field trip to the Pilot Dog facility,” Corley said. “Later they established and maintained a flower bed near the school’s cafeteria windows.”

In addition, club members have made cards and holiday crafts for both needy families and for residents of local personal care facilities.

“A special project for the LEO Club this year has been preparing birthday boxes for children in need,” Corley said. “They packed the items for each party in plastic shoe boxes and donated them to a local food pantry so that parents could more fully celebrate their small children’s birthdays.”

For 35 years, the club has also visited elementary schools in the Elkins area to speak with first-grade students about the history of the American flag and proper flag etiquette. Every first-grade student also receives a flag at the end of the program. This tradition was started by Past District Governor Richard Walden in 1982 and is now conducted by Lion Karen White.

“Many of us are former school teachers and we very much enjoy these special moments with the students,” Corley said.

Lion Bill Collins and his leader dog, Lord Cooper, visit children to learn about the benefits of the Leader Dog Program and the type of training that a leader dog needs.

According to information from the Leader Dog website, for 75 years, Lions have contributed financially to the Leader Dogs for the Blind program and identified people in their community who could benefit from Leader Dog’s services.

When students interact with Collins and Lord Cooper, they are able to give treats to the K9 and even see their teachers be blindfolded and led through an obstacle course.

In addition to visiting specific schools, the Lions Club of Elkins was one of the original sponsors of little league baseball in Elkins and still continues to sponsor a team. The club now also sponsors a Seneca Soccer team.

The Lions Club of Elkins has also sponsored high school students who have participated in Rhododendron Girls and Boys State.

“It is with pride that we see children we visited in our elementary schools grow up and learn about the leadership skills taught at Rhododendron Girls and Boys State,” Corley said.

On an international level, the Lions Club of Elkins supports the Lions Clubs International Foundation, which provides humanitarian services throughout the world.

As stated in a press release provided by Corley, “With our support and the support of hundreds of other clubs, Lions International is able to maintain the Leader Dog program, sponsor eye clinics and give out eyeglasses in many countries where very little eyecare would likely be provided otherwise, provide measles vaccines to help prevent blindness sometimes caused by the measles virus and assist people in many other ways.”

Also, the Lions Club of Elkins provides monetary donations to several district and international projects.

“At the district and state level, we support the West Virginia Lions Sight Conservation Foundation, which helps those who need eye surgeries or other vision care too expensive for the local clubs to provide,” Corley said. “We recently sent a number of brooms and mops to assist flood victims in the state, as well as donated to several district projects. For each $1,000 a club donates to the West Virginia Lions Sight Conservation Foundation, they may honor one person who has given outstanding service to others with a Leonard Jarrett Award.”

Several Elkins Lions have received this award for their services, Corley said.