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Lions Clubs International Logo
|Formation||June 7, 1917|
|Type||Secular service club|
|Headquarters||Oak Brook, Illinois, US|
Lions Clubs International Logo
|Formation||June 7, 1917|
|Type||Secular service club|
|Headquarters||Oak Brook, Illinois, US|
Lions Clubs International (LCI) is a secular service organization founded by Melvin Jones in 1917. As of May 2013[update], it had over 46,000 local clubs and more than 1.35 million members in over 200 countries around the world. Headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, United States, the organization aims to meet the needs of communities on a local and global scale.
Lions Clubs International, a service membership organization of 1,368,683 members world-wide, was founded in the United States on June 7, 1917, by Melvin Jones, a Chicago businessman. Jones asked, with regard to his colleagues, "What if these men who are successful because of their drive, intelligence and ambition, were to put their talents to work improving their communities?" Jones' personal code, "You can't get very far until you start doing something for somebody else," reminds many Lions of the importance of community service.
The Lions motto is “We Serve.” Local Lions Club programs include sight conservation, hearing and speech conservation, diabetes awareness, youth outreach, international relations, environmental issues, and many other programs.
The stated purposes of Lions Clubs International are:
Much of the focus of Lions Clubs International work as a service club organization is to raise money for worthy causes. All funds raised by Lions Clubs from the general public are used for charitable purposes, and administrative costs are kept strictly separate and paid for by members. Some of the money raised for a club’s charity account goes toward projects that benefit the local community of an individual club.
Lions Clubs plan and participate in a wide variety of service projects that meet the international goals of Lions Clubs International as well as the needs of their local communities. Examples include donations to hospices, or community campaigns such as Message in a bottle, a United Kingdom initiative which places a plastic bottle with critical medical information inside the refrigerators of vulnerable people. Money is also raised for international purposes. Some of this is donated in reaction to events such as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Other money is used to support international campaigns, coordinated by the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), such as Sight First and Lions World Sight Day, which was launched in 1998 to draw world media attention to the plight of sight loss in the third world. Lions take on all sorts of various fundraisers to fund these projects. For example, the Dublin, Virginia Lions Club host two flea markets a year, and sell their famous Lion Dog, a fresh prepared variation of a corn dog.
Lions focus on work for the blind and visually impaired began when Helen Keller addressed the international convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, on 30 June 1925 and charged Lions to be Knights of the Blind.
Lions also have a strong commitment to community hearing- and cancer-screening projects. In Perth, Western Australia, they have conducted hearing screening for over 30 years and provided seed funding for the Lions Ear and Hearing Institute established September 9, 2001, a center of excellence in the diagnosis, management, and research of ear and hearing disorders. In Perth, Lions have also been instrumental in the establishment of the Lions Eye Institute. In Brisbane, Queensland, the Lions Medical Research Foundation provides funding to a number of researchers. Ian Frazer's initial work, leading to the development of a HPV vaccine for the human papillomavirus which could lead to cervical cancer, was funded by the Lions Medical Research Foundation.
Lions Clubs International has supported the work of the United Nations since that organization's inception in 1945, when it was one of the non-governmental organizations invited to assist in the drafting of the United Nations Charter in San Francisco, California.
Lions Clubs International Foundation is “Lions helping Lions serve the world”. Donations provide funding in the form of grants to financially assist Lions districts with large-scale humanitarian projects that are too expansive and costly for Lions to finance on their own. The Foundation aids Lions in making a greater impact in their local communities, as well as around the world. Through LCIF, Lions ease pain and suffering and bring healing and hope to people worldwide. Major initiatives of the foundation include the following:
Upon endorsing the biggest ever collaborative disease eradication programme called the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases launched on 30 January 2012 in London, the organization has implemented SightFirst program by which it aims to eradicate blindness due to trachoma, one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases. It has allocated over US$11 million in 10 countries for eye surgeries, medical training, distribution of Zithromax and tetracycline, and sanitary services. It has also announced US$6.9 million funding to support the Government of China for the same cause.
Membership is by "invitation only" as mandated by its constitution and by-laws. All member applicants need a sponsor who is an active member and of good standing in the club they intend to join. Membership applications, moreover, are subject to the approval of the Club's Board of Directors. Attendance at meetings is encouraged on a monthly or fortnightly basis. Due to the hierarchical nature of Lions Clubs International, members have the opportunity to advance from a local club to an office at the zone, multiple district, and international levels.
In 1987 the constitution of Lions Clubs International was amended to allow for women to become members. Since then many clubs have admitted women, but some all-male clubs still exist. In 2003, 8 out of 17 members at the Lions Club in Worcester, England, resigned when a woman joined the club. Despite this setback the club is now flourishing with 19 members, 7 of whom are women. Women's membership numbers continue to grow throughout the association.
The organization became international on 12 March 1920, when the first club in Canada was established in Windsor, Ontario. Lions Clubs have since spread across the globe and have a current membership roster of 1,368,683 members worldwide. Listed below are the dates of entry for some countries and regions.
In addition to adult Lions Clubs, the Lions family includes Lioness Clubs, Leo Clubs, Campus Lions Clubs and Lion Cubs. These divisions are important parts of Lions Clubs International. They allow service-minded individuals the opportunity to build better communities at the high school and college or university level.
Lioness Club Membership is generally for service-minded women, with exceptions of men also becoming Lioness members nowadays. They are formed under a parent Lions Club. The Lions Club thus becomes the Parent Club for the Lioness Club. Naming of the Club is also like that of the Lions Club—e.g., Lions Club of Vadodara (Race Course Circle) Dist 323F-1 forming and sponsoring a Lioness Club of Vadodara (Race Course Circle) Dist 323F-1. In many areas, particularly the United States, Lioness clubs have disbanded and merged into their parent clubs to make a more effective club as a whole.
Leo Clubs are an extension of the Lions service organization which aims to encourage community service and involvement from a young age. Leo Clubs much like Lioness Clubs are sponsored by a parent Lions Club. Leo Clubs are a common school-based organization with members between the ages of 12 and 18 from the same school, these are commonly referred to as Alpha Leo Clubs. Community based clubs also exist, these generally cater for 18- to 30-year-olds and are referred to as Omega Leo Clubs. Leo Clubs are required to have a Leo Club Advisor, a member of the sponsoring Lions Club who attends meetings and provides general advice to the club. Lions International includes more than 144,000 Leo club members in 139 countries.
Many Leos join a Campus Lions Club if they attend a university or college after high school graduation. There are more than 125 Campus Lions clubs in the world including nearly 2,500 members on college and university campuses in Australia, Brazil, China, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, England, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uganda, United States, Venezuela, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Ghana-Lions KNUST. Campus Lions Clubs empower their members to create meaningful change in their communities while developing leadership and professional skills.
Lion Cubs is a youth service organization for the elementary aged students. The first club was chartered in the Owen J. Roberts School District in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, United States. It was developed for students in 4th through 6th grade, and therefore too young to be a Leo Club member. The clubs (one club in each of five elementary schools) started their meetings and activities in September 2008 and were officially chartered March 24, 2009. The club is sponsored by the Coventry Lions Club of District 14P. The Lion Cubs first year had 179 charter members.
An international convention is held annually in cities across the globe for members to meet other Lions, elect the coming year's officers, and partake in the many activities planned. At the convention, Lions can participate in elections and parades, display and discuss fundraisers and service projects, and trade pins and other souvenirs. The first convention was held in 1917, the first year of the club’s existence, in Dallas, Texas. The 2006 convention was due to be held in New Orleans, but damage sustained during Hurricane Katrina meant that the convention had to be relocated to Boston.
Past convention locations include the following:
The Lions have been accused of being involved in the "New World Order" plot, along with the Freemasons, for the supposed purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. The most prominent of these claims came from the thirty-four-article Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS), released in 1988, defining its goals, objectives, and world view. The Lions Clubs are mentioned twice (in Articles 22 and 28) as a Zionist front, clearly perceived as an enemy of Islam.
Indonesian Islamic hardliners have called for a ban on the Lions Club, saying it is part of a Zionist conspiracy. The club has been called an "infidel" front for Freemasonry and the world Zionist movement and threatened Islam in the world's most populous Muslim country.
Given that many Freemasons are members of Lions Clubs, and its founder, Melvin Jones, was also a Freemason, modern conspiracy theories have claimed that the Lions are connected to and act cohesively with Freemasonry. One example is found on Martha F. Lee's Conspiracy Rising: Conspiracy Thinking and American Public Life. It says that the "Freemasons are apparently in cahoots with the Lions Clubs and involved in plots ranging from the distribution of aspartame to control the human mind, to the death of John Paul I, to an apparent plot to spread Zionism."
This perception, according to a Freemasonry website, can be traced to John Robison and the Abbé Barruel's unfounded writings on the causes of the French Revolution, Leo Taxil's late 19th-century hoax and the debunked Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The charter's current status within Hamas, the Masonic website claims, is unclear. It has never been formally adopted since Hamas was elected as the Palestinian government in 2006.
While there is no direct link between the Lions and the Masons, they are compatible, as evidenced by a speech delivered in 2004 to a Lions Club by a Mason named James F. Kirk-White. The topic of the talk was "Sharing Freemasonry Within Your Community". As Kirk-White explains, Masons are welcome in Lions Clubs, and vice versa. That Masons recruit from fraternal organizations such as the Lions among others. Their compatibility, moreover, is evidenced by the Masons in Albion, New York offering space for the Lions at a Masonic Lodge. Others also believe that the Lions Clubs actually are a "secret society" that has a great deal of secret ritual within its structure. According to them the Lions are one of those social groups belonging to a secret society that demand an oath of allegiance to join.