This year the North Carolina Lions State Convention was held in Greensboro at the Airport Marriott. The special guest was Immediate Past International President Chancellor Bob Corlew. He is currently the Chairperson for Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) which is the financial support organization that works with Lions Clubs International.
Lions Club International Foundation was founded in 1968 but its roots date back to the 1930’s when a Lion left his entire state to Lions Clubs International to continue the work of Lionism around the world. Today LCIF helps provide financial support to Lions Clubs, Districts and Regions to do more than what they would be able to handle financially by themselves. It enables us as Lions to take on larger projects than what we would be able to fund ourselves and increases our ability to impact our communities and the world around us. Fundraising and money great and very important but it is our service that make us great! So LCIF enables us to be even greater by assisting in the area of financing some of the larger projects we take on.
One recent example of a grant that was made was to help the people of Greensboro (where the convention was being held) recover from a tornado that hit just two weeks ago. The local club would normally have been limited to the funds in their own budget but though help from LCIF funds were made averrable to help get local Greensboro citizens back on their feet as quickly as possible. During the convention we had multiple occasions when local officials came in to thank us for the service that was done by the local Lions.
Another even larger example is in the fight to end measles. Because we have such advanced medical and hygiene practices here the USA it may be difficult to believe that just a few years ago 400 children died every day from measles. But through the work enabled by grants from LCIF (more than $80M) that number has been cut in half. We still have a long way to go because 200 child deaths per day is still heartbreaking news. But we can be proud to know that we have made such an impact so far and we are not done yet.
There is also some good news to report on the membership front. The worldwide organization of Lions is still growing. We have 30,000 more Lions worldwide today than we did at the end of the last fiscal year. And, just as Lions Clubs International membership is expanding so, too, is LCIF fundraising. Last year we raised (and granted) $30M. This year our goal is $50M and we are currently at roughly $40M but still have time and hope to reach the goal by the end of the year. Looking to the future we are currently in the first year of a four year capital campaign cycle. The first year is planning and the goal for the next thee years will be $100M each year.
For our part, the Apex Lions Club sent 5 Lions as delegates to this convention, and donated 230 eyeglasses, 35 sunglasses, 1 cell phone and 2 hearing aids. We also turned in our Camp Dogwood tickets for the raffle in June. We also had the opportunity to meet with Lions from other clubs to discuss questions like 501c3 organization as well as attend several business meetings and seminars.
One of the seminars was given by District 31-O DGE Susan Dailey. She presented some ideas for how to provide some interesting and unique services for children. One is an emergency snack pack for children with diabetes. This pack gives several options for foods that can raise blood sugar levels quickly if a child’s blood sugar gets too low. The second example is a Happy Birthday bag which can be taken to children in the hospital to raise their spirits and give them a little party in a bag to make them smile. Each of these is a very simple project that can be put together at a very small expense but can be a tremendous service for children at times when they need it the most. She even had some samples that we could use to bring back to our clubs as well. I made a couple of these and plan to share then at a future meeting.
Another seminar was given by Lion Bill Graham. Lion Bill talked about how new phone technologies can help the blind in ways never before possible. In particular, he highlighted an app called “Be My Eyes” which is available on both iPhone and Android phones. This app allows both blind and sighted registrations. If you register as a person who needs assistance you can make a “call” for help any time you need it. The app will then connect you with a user who registered as a sighted person for assistance. Once connected, the sighted person can see the camera from the callers phone so they can see for them. Then it works a bit like a phone call. So the person can ask questions like: “Is this milk expired?” or “Which way should I go to get out of this building?” and the signed person can answer questions or guid the person as needed. It is a real game changer in terms of how we can server the blind and visually impaired and the North Carolina Lions IT Committee is encouraging all North Carolina Lions to download and install the app to be available to assist whenever needed.
One of the vendors that was there was a company called eSight Eyeware. They have developed a pair of digital eyeglasses that can, in many cases, actually allow people with low vision who are even considered legally blind to see again. They are fairly expensive, but have come down in price and gotten smaller and more powerful since the first generation was made. They had a pair on display that we could see and there was even one example of a person there who is now legally blind but could once see. She tried on the glasses and was able to see people that she met after losing her vision for the very first time. She also got to see what her guide dog looked like for the very first time. There were a couple of videos uploaded here and here. One of the best parts is that the company actually requires people to try the glasses before purchasing them to be sure that they will work. But as long as the person has some vision left there is about a 70% chance that they will work according to their research so far.
Some additional notes from the convention:
A lot of great work was done at Camp Dogwood during volunteer week again this year – thanks again to all the volunteers!
Brighter Visions numbers are up from this same time last year so that is good news also. Ticket sales have increased from last year. We are currently 2/3 of the way toward the goal but still need a solid push to get to the finish line by the end of the year. There is also still some need for volunteers at Camp Dogwood – particularly in the later weeks of the summer. There are a lot of things going on at Camp Dogwood including some important personnel changes so please be aware of that if you need to contact Camp Dogwood and replies are not quite as fast as you are accustomed to them being.
Camp Dogwood also received a $100,000 donation from the Lions Industries For The Blind in Kinston for parking lot paving. Additionally, a matching funds grant request was made to LCIF and is scheduled to be evaluated next month. This donation (and also the grant if we get it) are a tremendous help for Camp Dogwood at a time when we really need it.
So far $106,000 has been received from clubs for room renovations (one was from right here in Apex).
The silent and live Tail Twister auctions raised just under $5k and by the end of the weekend the Brighter Visions total raised was up to $473K !
My final thoughts coming out of this meeting are that while it may seem like a big commitment to spend a whole weekend at a convention away from home it is also a rare opportunity to learn a lot more about what Lionism is all about. It is only at a convention like this that you can actually meet and talk to Lions from across the state to hear about what their struggles are and how they have overcome them. And if you want to see cutting edge technology first hand it is more likely for that to happen at a convention like this than anywhere else you may go. Finally, if you ever wanted or needed to be reminded of why it’s so great to be a part of Lions and to be reminded of the impact that the work we all contribute to is having on the world around us – this is the best place to be. When you hear things from the perspective of International Presidents and International Directors you get a whole new level of appreciation for what Lions are and what we are all a part of. Be proud to be a Lion!
2019 State Convention will be at this same location April 26 – 28, 2019