February 19, 2014

Lions Club prioritizes community projects

Programs include vision care, assistance for needy and mentoring service-minded youth

By R. Scott Belzer
Staff Writer


Few would think to credit Laurel County’s ever-increasing likability and improvement to about a dozen like-minded volunteers in an almost unnoticeable room at Saint Joseph London’s lower cafeteria, but they should: it’s the meeting place for the Laurel Community Lions Club.

The Laurel Community Lions Club is part of Lions Club International, a non-profit organization committed to providing communities with charitable services. Worldwide, it consists of more than 1.35 million members and 46,000 clubs in over 200 countries. Simple, short and sweet, the organization’s motto is “We serve.”

“We can tailor our services to whatever needs the community has,” said Club President Doris Callebs. “We find something in the community and serve where we are needed.”

Chartered in August 2009, past services from Laurel County’s chapter of Lions have included tornado relief via a grant from Lions Club International, annual Christmas food baskets for those in need, providing activities for nursing homes throughout the county, and helping to keep the local homeless shelter well stocked and operational.

“Laurel County is a great place to live and it needs our support to stay that way,” said Callebs. “And we’re always available for projects throughout the county.”

The Laurel Community Lions Club has most recently become known for providing assistance for needy individuals throughout Laurel County.  According to the organization’s website, the trend stems from a 1925 Lions Club International Convention that Helen Keller attended in which she challenged the Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”

“We’re able to fill the gap when it comes to vision care for the elderly, low income, or disabled. We can get in contact with eye doctors if we need to discuss serious medical conditions,” Callebs said. “It’s a very important function that a lot of other civic groups cannot perform. And it all started with Helen Keller.”

Callebs went on to explain how smaller clubs like the Laurel Community Lions help fund research conducted by Lions Club International. The research includes preventive measures for cataracts and measles, which is a leading cause for blindness. Funds also aid the international goal of helping third world countries.

The club is proud to discuss a specific camera available at their disposal for helping identify eye deficiencies. According to member Mike Pawula, the camera has in the past helped pick out early signs of degenerative disease, lazy eye, and other serious ailments. All someone has to do is take a picture, and the camera will do the rest.

“By no means can it provide a diagnosis, but it can help identify certain things for doctors,” Pawula continued.

A total of $250 is also awarded through the club’s “We Serve” Scholarship to North and South Laurel high school students. Any student that has shown a true desire to help others while maintaining academic excellence is encouraged to apply.

The club is also looking to develop Leo Youth Groups in the near future. Lions Club Leos help develop youth into being service minded members of a community.