*Honoring the Lions Club Centennial*
The Thirtieth Alaska State Legislature joins the Lions in celebrating their hundredth year of service. From their humble beginnings as a club to improve the community in Chicago to their administration of over 10,000 grants, the Lions Club’s impact can be seen wherever members focus their efforts.
The Lions Club was started in 1917 when Melvin Jones told members of his local business they ought to focus not only on business issues, but to the betterment of their communities and the world. The group took on the name of the “Association of Lions Clubs”, and before the year’s end had adopted a constitution, bylaws, objectives, and a code of ethics.
As the organization grew, it continued working towards the goal of the betterment of the world. The first international growth of the Lions happened with the chartering of a club in Canada in 1920, and just over a decade later the first international convention outside of the U.S. took place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
The Lions took on the challenge of blindness with Helen Keller’s charging of them to be “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness”. To this end, in 1930 the Lions introduced the iconic white cane with a red band as a means of assisting the blind in independent mobility—an idea that went on the become statute in every state in the U.S. and numerous other countries. The club’s fight against blindness continues to this day alongside the numerous other efforts of the club.
In 1968 the Lions Clubs International Foundation was established to support the humanitarian work of the Lions. Since its inception, the foundation has distributed over $826 million in grants to support humanitarian efforts from floods in South Dakota in 1972, to eliminating river blindness in Colombia in 2013.
Alaska Lions carry on the club’s mission in the state with their contributions to vision screening, eyeglass recycling, and the Joint Sight Committee. They provide glasses to the needy, assistance for the visually impaired, and financial assistance to those who are unable to purchase eyeglasses for themselves. The Aurora Borealis Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center has recycled approximately 40,000 pairs of eyeglasses per year, sending roughly 30,000 to eye care missions.
Emphasizing the club’s dedication to bettering their communities, one of the Alaska Lions’ most remarkable contributions was their pivotal role in housing inhabitants from Ag’waneq and Port Wakefield. After the villages were destroyed in the Good Friday earthquake in 1964, the Lions were instrumental in having housing built for the displaced Alaskans, issuing a grant of $1 million dollars to fund the creation of Port Lions.
The Lions Club has contributed in countless ways to improving their communities and the world, demonstrating the value of individuals coming together to make meaningful change. The members of the Thirtieth Alaska State Legislature are honored to celebrate the Lions Club’s 100th year of service, and look forward to their future accomplishments.