The International Association of Lions Clubs began as the dream of a Chicago
insurance man Melvin Jones, who wondered why local business clubs -- he was
an active member of one -- could not expand their horizons from purely
business concerns to the betterment of their communities and the world at
struck a chord within his own group, the Business Circle of Chicago, and they authorized
him to explore his concept with similar organizations from around the United States. His
efforts resulted in an organizational meeting at a local hotel on June 7, 1917.
The 12 men who gathered
there overcame a natural sense of loyalty to their parent clubs, voted the
"Association of Lions Clubs" into existence, and issued a call for a national
convention to be held in Dallas, Texas, USA in October of the same year.
representing 22 clubs from nine states heeded the call, approved the "Lions
Clubs" designation, and elected Dr. William P. Woods of Indiana as their first
president. Guiding force and founder Melvin Jones was named acting secretary. Thus began
an association with Lionism that only ended with his death in 1961.
That first convention also
began to define what Lionism was to become. A constitution and by-laws were adopted, the
colors of purple and gold approved, and a start made on Lionism's
and Code of Ethics.
One of the objects was
startling for an era that prided itself on mercenary individualism, and has remained one
of the main tenets of Lionism ever since. "No Club," it read, "shall hold
out the financial betterment of its members as its object."
Community leaders soon
began to organize clubs throughout the United States, and the association became
"international" with the formation of the Windsor, Ontario, Canada Lions Club in
1920. Clubs were later organized in China, Mexico, and Cuba. By 1927, membership stood at
60 000 in 1 183 clubs.
In 1935, Panama became
home to the first Central American club, with the first South American club being
organized in Columbia the following year. Lionism reached Australia in 1947 and Europe in
1948, as clubs were chartered in Sweden, Switzerland, and France. In 1952, the first club
was chartered in Japan.
Association of Lions Clubs is today the largest service organization in the world with
over 1,4 million members in more than 43 300 clubs in 714 Districts covering 182 countries
and geographic areas. Lions Clubs are not social clubs, although there are social benefits
to membership. Lions Club members give their time, skills and resources to raise funds for
charitable giving both in their communities and internationally.
The major focus of Lions
fund raising activities is sight conservation, although other projects are pursued such as
drug awareness programs in high schools, diabetes awareness programs and other programs
that are specific to individual Clubs and Districts. Lions took up sight conservation as
their major goal after a speech given by Helen Keller at the Lions International
Convention held at Cedar Point, Ohio, in 1925. At that time, Helen Keller challenged the
Lions to become "Knights of the Blind", a challenge that has become a rallying
cry for Lions projects around the world.
Lions work in the area of
sight conservation is carried out at many levels. Individual Clubs sponsor free eye
screening programs using mobile eye clinics. In many countries, Clubs sponsor eye surgery
camps where cataract surgeries are performed at no charge for those that can't afford this
medical care. Many clubs collect old eye glasses for distribution to the needy in other
Association of Lions Clubs is the largest non-governmental organization associated with
the United Nations and was called upon by the United Nations and the World Health
Organization to raise funds for an international program of sight conservation. It has
been estimated that 40 million cases of curable and preventable blindness exist on this
planet today. Without intervention, this is projected to become 80 million by the end of
Association of Lions Clubs began a program of fund raising that they called "Campaign
Sight First" in order to cure/prevent 40 million cases of blindness worldwide. Over
$148,600,000 have been raised by Lions all over the world for this program. Eye hospitals
are being built in the places that most need them. In India alone, over 300,000 cataract
surgeries have been performed and that number is rapidly growing. Lions services to
humanity range from purchasing eyeglass for a child who's parents can't afford them to
multimillion dollar programs to cure blindness on a worldwide scale.
The Lions International
Headquarters is in Oak Brook, Illinois, USA.
You can contact Lions Clubs International as follows:
Lions Clubs International
300 22nd Street
Oak Brook, IL
Telephone: (+ 1 630) 571-5466 • Fax: (+ 1 630) 571-8890
Organizations: Lions Clubs International