New Lions Club forms in village of Los Lunas

........................................................................................................................................................................................

The latest New Mexico Lions Club has formed in Los Lunas to serve the community through projects tailored to local needs.

There are nearly 100 Lions Clubs in New Mexico. One of the biggest programs is the "Kids Sight Program," which gives young children digital eye exams for early eye disease detection.

Lions Clubs pay for the child's first optometrist visit, screening, purchase of glasses and surgery, if it is needed, at no cost to the family.

The percentage rate of catching eye diseases early is anywhere from 7 percent to 12 and 14 percent in the Indian population, said Jean Bodensteinder, former district Lions governor.

The New Mexico Lions Eye Foundation established an eye bank to take donated tissue for cornea transplants and other eye repairs.

The Lions Club is an international community service organization started in the United States in 1917. Its early years had a focus on eye diseases because, in 1925, Helen Keller challenged them to become her knights of the blind in a crusade against blindness, Bodensteinder said.

There are now Lions Clubs in 206 countries and territories around the world, all sharing a belief that "community is what we make it," she said. Their common goal is to support and improve local communities.

Each club tailors its service work to meet the community's needs. Projects range from vision care, youth services, literacy programs, support of local children and schools through scholarships, recreation and mentoring, aiding seniors and the disabled, feeding the hungry and caring for the environment.

Out of the charter members, a leader is needed who is willing to put the effort into making the club a success, said Vern Leavitt, New Mexico Lions Clubs zone 7 chairman.

The Los Lunas club will be formally chartered on June 30 before the start of the next fiscal year, and a charter banquet sponsored by the two New Mexico districts' council will follow in July or August, he said.

"We get as many people together, and have a big banquet for this new club," Leavitt said. "A lot of the clubs will give gifts to the new club to help it get on its feet."

During the banquet, new members are welcomed to Lionism in a special ceremony, and officers will be installed.

When you join Lions, you join a global service network. So, at the same time you're doing local community service, you also can contribute to Lions volunteer efforts around the world, Bodensteiner said.

When there is a major disaster in any area of the world where there is a Lions Club near the calamity, the Lions Club International Foundation provides expedient relief money in the form of grants.

"Now, like here in New Mexico, we may very well get grants from LCIF for fire damages," said Bodensteiner. "If we had a fire, emergency grants are available, and the money is there the next day after the request."

Almost all the grant funding goes directly to people for food, water, clothing, medical supplies, and aiding in long-term reconstruction, she said.

Being a member of a Lions Club also provides excellent networking opportunities for business people and entrepreneurs, and is a resource for free leadership and team-building training, she said.

For more information, email Jean Bodensteinder at jcbodens47@yahoo.com or Vern Leavitt at lionvern@yahoo.com.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.