MOUNT PLEASANT–The Mount Pleasant Lions Club may be small in numbers, with 13 members, but they make a big impact in their community. The motto of all Lions Club International organizations is “We serve”. That is certainly the case with the Mount Pleasant group
On March 2, their club joined with 19 other service organizations in reading to students at 37 elementary schools throughout the Valley on Read Across America Day. Six members of the Mount Pleasant Lions Club read to students at Mount Pleasant Elementary School. Percentage-wise, they had a larger turn-out than any other group in the Valley that day.
But that is just the most recent contribution that the Club has made to the Mount Pleasant/Garden City area. The Lions Club International is involved with sight, hearing, and speech conservation projects; diabetes awareness; youth outreach; international relations; and environmental issues. Current president Anne Ferguson described an array of projects that the local group contributes to, sponsors, or volunteers for, that bring these worldwide projects closer to home.
“We work with Garden City Elementary on a monthly basis doing the Pack-a-Snack program which provides a bag of food for children who are in need to use over the weekend. This year we have a grant from the Roanoke Valley Foundation to fund the food we pick up from Feeding America Southwest Virginia. Right now we work with 3 churches and the PTA at the school. We are called the Community in Action program,” said Ferguson. “Teachers discreetly stuff students’ backpacks with bags filled with cans of vegetables, canned pasta, pudding, juice, milk, soup, and toiletries, prepared by the Community in Action groups.”
Each year the Mount Pleasant Lions Club takes two families (one from Garden City and one from Mount Pleasant) on Back to School and Christmas shopping trips to K-Mart. In August, families shop for school supplies, backpacks, and clothing for the opening of school, aided by their school’s supply list. In December, they focus is on new clothing and a toy. Families are identified by the guidance counselors at each school.
Twice a year the Club participates in a roadside clean-up of Sterling Road. They contribute to the local Camp Too Sweet for diabetic children, as well as the American Cancer Society, prom nights for area schools, the Mission of Mercy event in Southwest Virginia which provides medical and dental care for low income individuals, and the Outdoor Garden at Garden City Elementary School to name a few of the programs that get their attention.
The Lions Club finances their projects through monthly dues and money from various fundraisers held throughout the year.
“We held a Pancake Breakfast with Santa in December where we served approximately 170 adults and children. In October we had a broom sale and raffle at a neighborhood grocery store,” said Ferguson.
Their next fundraiser is coming up on March 31 at their meeting hall at 2432 Mayfield Drive from 4:00 to 7:00 pm: the Spaghetti Benefit Supper for School Assistance, which will help fund various programs in the local schools. The charge is $8 for adults and $5 for ages 16 and under. Children 4 and under eat free.
Part of the Lions Club’s local contributions help fund Lions Club projects throughout the nation and the world especially in the case of catastrophic events, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, or a tsunami.
The Mount Pleasant Lions Club celebrated their 50th anniversary last year, chartered in 1961 to serve the needs of the Mount Pleasant area.
Lions Club International itself was formed in 1917 when Melvin Jones, owner of an insurance agency in Chicago, decided that his local business circle could better use their talents serving the community than serving their own business interests. They decided to call the new organization Lions, because the lion stood for strength, courage, fidelity and vital action.
From that vision, the Lions Club International has grown in just 95 years into the world’s largest service organization with 46,000 clubs and 1.35 million members worldwide.
In 1919, Helen Keller challenged the Lions Club organization to become “Knights of the Blind in the crusade against darkness”.
Her request led the Lions Club to the cause that they are most known for: preventing blindness and saving sight for millions of people around the world. They support the Lions Eye Banks that provide eye tissue for sight-saving surgeries, as well as screening the vision of hundreds of thousands of people every year, and providing treatment to those at risk of losing their vision. Roanoke has one of only 17 Lions Club eyeglass recycling centers in the world, which is located at the corner of Elm Avenue and 5th Street.
The Mount Pleasant Lions Club honors this mission by helping to provide children and adults in the area with eye exams, eye screening, and eyeglasses.
Even their club building on Mayfield Drive positively impacts their community by providing a venue for meetings, reunions, bridal and baby showers, and other activities.
The Mount Pleasant Lions Club welcomes new members. Like many civic organizations, they need an influx of younger members to carry on their mission of meeting the needs of local communities and the world, members who will share a core belief that “community is what we make it. Whenever a Lions Club gets together, problems get smaller, and communities get better,” as the International Lions Club website states.
By Debbie Adams