Like most service clubs around the United States, as well as most other volunteer organizations, the coronavirus pandemic that began in 2020 has been weathered by their memberships.
The Midland Lions Club
has been no different. As part of the Lions Club International
, it enjoys a shared, long and storied history, both financially and organizationally, of helping people in its community, particularly those with vision needs.
Current Midland Lions President Art Kuper receiving the gavel from Past President Lori Shelby-Hall. Also pictured is Lion VP Scott Berry.
Now, according to Midland resident and current President Art W. Kuper, it remains strong, continuing its community service, its fundraising efforts and its making Midland a better place to live.
Beginning In Chicago in 1917 when Melvin Jones, a 38-year-old Chicago business leader, told members of his local business club they should reach beyond business issues and address the betterment of their communities and the world. Jones' group, the Business Circle of Chicago, agreed.
So the Lions movement was begun, and after contacting similar groups around the United States, an organizational meeting was held on June 7, 1917, in the Windy City, according to a historical timeline published in 2017 by the Lions Clubs International offices now in suburban Oak Brook, Ill.
“The new group took the name of one of the invited groups, the "Association of Lions Clubs," and a national convention was held in Dallas, Texas, USA in October of that year.The rest is history,” the timeline reads.
This reporter asked Kuper about the group’s main mission - assisting the blind - and how the local Lions Club - chartered in 1933 - continues to provide services to its community for the blind and beyond.
. Tell us a little about the Lions Club and how it became synonymous with helping people who are in need of sight services. I understand there is an anniversary coming up in the Lions Club in the near future?
. The Lions Club has been very active in providing service to people needing sight services over the past 90 years. The association began with Helen Keller in 1925 in Cedar Point, Ohio, with her speech to the International Lions Club asking for Lions to be "knights of the blind
in the crusade against darkness," to hasten the day when there would be no preventable blindness, no blind child untaught and no blind men and women unaided.
Cheryl Wade with her Leader Dog in a recent Memorial Day Parade
. As president of the Midland Lions Club, tell us how you got to be elected and why you continue to serve.
. My first contact with the Midland Lions Club was through a neighbor and friend who introduced me to the Lions Club. I was impressed with the role the Lions played in their commitment to community service and especially their role in sight-related issues.
. What are some of the other projects that Lions have been associated with historically?
The Lions have been very involved with organizations providing services such as Leader Dogs, and children's screening in the schools for vision problems.
Lion Ann Roeseler from Coleman Lions and Lion Sandy House from Midland at KidSight event
The pandemic hit the Midland community quite hard as it did the rest of the country. Has the club bounced back in the three years since then, and if so, how?
The Midland Lions Club continued to function despite the pandemic in providing many of the services it normally provides to the community.
. The service clubs are different in a lot of ways from other types of organizations, in that developing camaraderie and friendships are made that last generations, as well as providing resources to help the community. Do you see any internal changes coming?
. The service clubs including Lions provide services to the community through an organization based on camaraderie and friendship. These connections are based on the members and lead to the strength of their actions and the longevity of these relationships.
Lions Club members Mike & Tina Hoy volunteering in the White Cane fundraiser.
. The Midland Lions Club services, such as the Leader Dog Program and White Canes for the blind, are necessities for blind people in many ways. How do the Lions Club continue to support these programs in modern-day America?
. The Lions Club services by providing eye exams for those who qualify, purchases eye glasses and helps obtain hearing aids, supports the Michigan Eye Bank
for corneal transplants, supports the Leader Dog Program and White Canes for the blind, supports the MidMichigan Diabetes Center and the Bear Lake Camp
for diabetes in children, supports leadership programs for community youth, helps children attend summer camp at Chippewa Nature Center
Midland Lions stage an annual hole-in-one fundraiser at Currie Golf Course.
If someone wanted to join this club, what would you tell them about what they could expect? How does it work with Midland’s other service and other volunteer organizations?
Men and women joining the club can expect an opportunity to help in the community in a friendly group of people. It is an opportunity to learn about other activities in the community. through the meetings with speakers from a broad range of local leaders.
. Because of the organization of Lions Club, places such as Camp Fish Tales, the Chippewa Nature Center and the Michigan Eye Bank, are better situated to serve their communities. How can Lions Clubs carry forward in the future?
. The relationship of the Lions Club with organizations such as Camp Fish Tales
,, Chippewa Nature Center and Michigan Eye Bank is ongoing and is financial as well as activities based.
To contact the Lions, go to Midland Lions Facebook
page or the Midland Lions website