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By Devese “Dee” Ursery
A century of service was marked on Feb. 20 by the Collinsville Noon Lions Club, an organization which strives for the good of humanity, specifically in regards to the visually impaired, in communities and across the world.
The Collinsville Noon Lions Club commemorated its 100th anniversary at 6 p.m. on Feb. 25 at the Collinsville VFW Hall. There were over 100 people in attendance, including two Leo Clubs from Collinsville and Highland that were invited.
The festivities featured keynote speaker and past president of Lions Club international Director Bob Block. Collinsville Mayor John Miller presented Block, who is a motivational speaker and members of their sister club from Nepal were also guests of the evening.
Block is from Maryland, Illinois, two hours west of Chicago and was elected to serve as international director of Lions Club International at the association’s 102nd International Convention.
Patrick Ayres, club secretary who has been a member for four years gave details on the rest of the evening’s entertainment.
“We have a musical talent, a person by the name of Monty Jackson. He’s a singer that we’re bringing in, “ Ayres said. “Then there’s a presentation by Leader Dogs, which is a group in Rochester Hills, Michigan that we help fund; that gives seeing eye dogs to those in need.”
Ayres said that the Collinsville Noon Lions Club was formed on Feb. 20, 1923, with Mathew Welch as the first president. The club was created, Ayres continued, to help the Collinsville community by providing eyeglass assistance and help with the blind.
The efforts of Lions in the field of vision are wide and well documented. The SightFirst program has played a key role in reducing global blindness – building comprehensive and sustainable eye care systems. Their efforts also include projects that deliver eye care services, build or strengthen eye care facilities, train professionals and build awareness about eye health in underserved communities.
According to the Lions Club International website, 253 million people are blind or have moderate to severe distance vision impairment. Over 1.1 billion individuals have near-vision impairment simply because they don’t have a pair of glasses.
Lions serve. It’s that simple, and it has been since they first began in 1917, as stated on their website. Lions Clubs International, a civilian service organization established by a Chicago insurance broker, Melvin Jones, in Dallas, Texas is all about serving their communities through kindness in action. There are over 48,000 clubs all over the world who decided to take action and serve others.
Their mission statement declares that they empower Lions Clubs, volunteers and partners to improve health and well-being, strengthen communities and support those in need through humanitarian services. They also use grants to impact lives globally and encourage peace and international understanding. As Lions, they hold themselves to the absolute highest standards in everything that they do. They champion kindness in their communities and actively work to improve the lives of all people.
Ayres says it starts with a commitment to service the community. Ayres believes that the club has cultivated a community here with club members having a good time and helping the community. He also stated that every member knows that without their efforts many people in the community would go without the help that they need.
Ayres continued that there are other groups out there, but the Lions Club provides a unique niche in Collinsville and the wider community.
Ayres said that there are five objectives to the club. To help the blind and the hearing impaired; to help the youth of the community; to help local schools in pursuit of their projects; to help people with disabilities and the underprivileged. It is also to assist in all projects that help the civic and social betterment of the community.
Lions’ activities include neighborhood-improvement projects, environmental and conservation programs, educational and literacy services, aid to the blind and the hearing impaired. They also aid in disaster relief, support for victims of pediatric cancer and their families as well as hunger relief.
Ayres explained that for the past 100 years the club has met on the first and third Wednesdays of every month to strategize their efforts of providing their communities with needed help
“We’ve contributed money to good causes, mainly about eye care or helping the blind,” Aayres said. “We’ve done a bunch of other things including donating $10,000 to Anderson Hospital or other community projects that would help not only Collinsville, but the whole southwestern Illinois community.”