Lions celebrate 88 years of serving the community

By BRIAN GRAVES Staff Writer
Posted 9/16/17

Cleveland Lions Club members celebrated the group’s 88th anniversary this week, with special visits from the top two Lions in the district.

Lions International District Gov. John Moon and …

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Lions celebrate 88 years of serving the community

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Cleveland Lions Club members celebrated the group’s 88th anniversary this week, with special visits from the top two Lions in the district.

Lions International District Gov. John Moon and 1st Vice District Gov. Pete LeGro were both in attendance as the local club marked the special occasion.

It was on June 7, 1917, at the invitation of businessman Melvin Jones, that delegates met in Chicago to form what became the Lions Club International.

The only point of contention was the selection of a name for the new organization. Melvin Jones researched the idea of calling the new organization Lions. He was convinced the lion stood for strength, courage, fidelity and vital action.

Twelve years later, a group of Cleveland residents shared the vision and organized the local club.

As part of the local observance, the Cleveland club had its original 1929 charter on display.

The Lions are best known for the work in the area of vision.

Each year, the Lions go into the schools and perform eye screenings for the students.

“We began our eye screenings on Sept. 6 for all our kindergarten, second-grade and fourth-grade school children, which totals around 3,500 this year,” said Cleveland Lions President Kimberly Ledford.

“We also will be setting up an eye screening station for several community health fairs and demonstrations for our adult residents this fall and spring — in particular the Cultural Arts Fair, YMCA Health Fair and area school functions for parents.”

The connection with vision health came in 1925 when Hellen Keller visited the Lions Clubs International Convention and challenged Lions to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”

The Lions accepted her challenge and their work since has included sight programs aimed at preventable blindness.

Ledford announced there is now the possibility of forming a Lions Club on the Cleveland State campus.

LeGro was able to induct two new members into the Cleveland club, Star Brown and Keith Pendergrass, to make the celebration even more special.

“What is awesome about this is you are now expanding your club to bring in two new members,” LeGro said. “I want to make sure you welcome both of them in. I want to make sure you get them involved right away, so we keep them active,” she said.

“The membership in the Lions Club is a privilege,” LeGro said. “This is the largest service organization in the world. We have over 1.4 million members and we have over 46,000 clubs in 210 countries. That’s an amazing amount of people doing an amazing amounts of work.”

He said the Lions Club took on the challenge laid down by Keller all those years ago.

“Today, we are working harder than ever,” LeGro said. “We are now partnering with the American Diabetes Association, because diabetes is one of the main reasons there is blindness in this country and it is preventable.”

LeGro said the Lions have also taken up the challenge of childhood cancers.

Moon called Cleveland “the best Lions club in the state of Tennessee.”

“If you don’t believe that, you can’t produce the kinds of new members you just had and the excellence that Lions Clubs produce can’t take place,” Moon said.

“It is absolutely wonderful you have been in Cleveland, Tennessee, and Bradley County, providing thousands and hundreds of thousands of service hours to this community for the last 88 years,” he said. “That happened because someone in 1929 called Oak Brook, Illinois, and said, ‘We would like to start a Lions Club here in Bradley County.”

He said the ones who put the local club together “had a dream.”

“Their dream ended up being that 88 years later, you have a great Lions Club with great leaders, with great service work, with great membership, with great communication,” Moon said.

“We serve our community and we love our community,” Ledford said. “That’s what we do.”

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