In the second panel of the Oct. 2 Lions Champions of Change event, six Lions from across the country gathered to discuss service, humanitarian aid and youth development programs. At the invitation of the White House, more than 200 Lions from around the world attended the day of dialogue, which was also broadcast live on the Internet. Our second panel of Lions share their reflections on being a Lion.
I’ve always felt an obligation to serve the community. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of two of my heroes: my dad and mom who were both Lions. Since I became a Lion in 1990, I have worked at Mid-South Lions Sight and Hearing Service. The organization provides me with a unique opportunity to work with Lions from all over the world, and gives me the privilege of seeing how Lions are making a positive difference in the lives of people every day.
By providing comprehensive medical care to the unemployed, uninsured and underinsured in our region, the positive impact on hundreds, if not thousands, of lives cannot be measured in dollars. The rewards of watching a grandmother see her grandchild for the first time; hearing stories of people who thought the world had gone gray, but can see colors again; people who forgot there were actually leaves on the trees instead of big blobs of gray-now speak of how the Lions came to their rescue. The most poignant story is of a nurse who had lost her sight and “prayed that God would send an angel to restore me to my family and to my life…but He did not. Instead, He sent the Lions.”
Brad Baker of Jonesboro, Ark., is a member of the Jonesboro University Heights Lions Club and has been a Lion for 22 years.
As an optometrist, I always want to help people see. I wanted to do something that I could feel good about. Little did I know my efforts would grow into a global health program. Through Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes, providing eye screenings to Special Olympics athletes, and the Lions Lens, a low-cost solution to the need for prescription eyeglasses, Lions are improving the quality of life for people around the world.
The Lions support for the program I founded, answering the call of Helen Keller to be the knights of the blind has enabled this progress. Lions have taken a leadership role in eliminating visual impairments for all people, including Special Olympic athletes globally. Helping low-income individuals and people with intellectual disabilities see enables them to contribute more to society and lead happier, more productive lives.
Dr. Paul Berman of Hillsdale, N.J., is a member of the Hackensack Lions Club and has been a Lion for 20 years.
More than 4 million Americans have low vision. That number is expected to double during the next 15 years. In the past 20 years, I have worked with Lions in my region through the Lions Vision Research Foundation because to be most effective, low-vision rehabilitation services should be provided in the person’s home and community. Through the years I have become very close to the Lions and think of them as family. It was not possible to separate my work at Johns Hopkins from my close relationship with the Lions.
Lions can and should be the community experts on low vision and advocates for their visually impaired neighbors. Low-vision service is in short supply and poorly distributed. Because most people with low vision are elderly, their disabilities from sight loss are amplified and many require help with transportation, shopping, home maintenance and a variety of other everyday needs. Lions educate the community about the limitations and capabilities of visually impaired people, help obtain the services they need, help visually impaired people solve problems with adapting to low vision and provide assistance to people with low vision when needed.
Robert W. Massof of Pasadena, Md., is a member of the Baltimore Brooklyn Lions Club.
Service has always been a part of my life – my parents showed me what it was to volunteer by including me in their activities in whatever capacity I was capable of at that age. As a mother, I want to instill the “We Serve” attitude within my children, which is why I started the Houston Royal Oaks Lions Club. We seek ways to improve our community while serving as families. At a recent health fair my club hosted at a local school, my children helped entertain other kids while their parents received diabetes screenings and their siblings underwent eye exams.
I am very proud to be a Lion. Education is the key to empowerment and through my Lions club, I use my skills as a registered nurse to provide healthcare access to underserved populations. Working together, we are in a better position to create change through our global network of family and friends.
Maria Emee M. Nisnisan of Sugar Land, Texas, has been a member of the Houston Royal Oaks Lions Club since 2004.
My dad was a Lion and I wanted to give back to the community in a meaningful way. I know of no other organization that can provide the impact that Lions Clubs International does. There are so many needs in our communities, in our country, in our world. As one person, I can serve and make a difference in my community. As a Lion, I join a family of people dedicated to serving.
I will never forget the moment I handed the little white cooler of corneal transplant tissue over to the surgical clerk. “Thank you,” she said, “someone will see tonight.” Being a Lion has been the most rewarding volunteering experience I’ve ever had. I will never forget the tears rolling down the face of the 80-year-old man in Mexico when he found that after 15 years, he could finally read again through the recycled glasses I had just placed on his face. Just like I will never forget the man who told me, “You have not just provided me a Leader Dog, you have given me back my job, my freedom, my life.”
I will never forget why I am a Lion. I am Lion for life.
Karla N. Harris of South Milwaukee, Wis., has been a member of the South Milwaukee Lions Club since 2002.
I knew nothing about eyeglass missions when I traveled on my first mission trip in the mid ‘90s. The experience was unforgettable and very rewarding. Fitting glasses on a person’s face and seeing their reactions to clear vision is an experience you will never forget. Yes, you give your time and effort to go on an eye glass mission, but the rewards are many.
The success of our missions requires a total team effort for the year leading up to the trip. We collect more than 1,000 pairs of used glasses per month and store donated supplies and medical equipment in our warehouse. We collaborate with Lions clubs in the destination city as well as with hospitals and professionals within our community. Our missions provide life-changing opportunities for those we serve. The people we serve would not have their vision restored without our help. As Lions, we are part of an international community of volunteers. This project is just one of the many ways our clubs exemplify humanitarian work and demonstrate the power of working together across borders.
Gregory L. Jeffrey of North Webster, Ind., has been a member of the Fort Wayne Central Lions Club since 1985.