Lions signify courage, power and strength in the animal world. In the human world, Lions represent Liberty, Intelligence and Our Nation’s Safety. The Lions club is the oldest and largest community service club organization in the world and one of the most effective. There are now over 47,000 clubs throughout the world with membership more than 1.4 million.

The Lions Club journey began in 1917 in Chicago in response to social issues created by World War I along with rapid industrialization. Within 3 years, Lions became international with the start of Border Cities Lions Club in Windsor, Canada. Clubs were already in 20 U.S. states with 6,400 members. In 1925, Lions became “Knights of the Blind” when Helen Keller challenged them to be crusaders against darkness. This was the beginning of their century-long mission to help millions with vision-related problems, and this worthy mission continues to this day.

In 1945, another milestone was achieved when Lions and others, from 46 nations, met to help establish the NGO section of the United Nations. This great feat has been celebrated annually, with the United Nations, for the past 77 years with Lions Day.

As with many service groups, the LEO (Leadership, Experience, Opportunity) program was developed in 1957 to provide youth of the world opportunities for volunteering to promote personal development and growth. In 1966, the Lions Clubs International Foundation was established to help support Lions clubs in their efforts with the awarding of over a billion dollars in grants. Sight First was launched in 1990. This campaign helps restore sight and prevent blindness globally. More than 488 million people have been helped to date. In 1987, women were invited to join as members. In 2017, Lions celebrated its 100th anniversary in its birthplace of Chicago, Illinois and continues going strong.

The posted benefits for being a Lion are fun and fellowship, opportunities to lead, tools to put your kindness in action with the Service Project Planners, a global Foundation that magnifies your service impact, being a part of something big, Tech made just for Lions with the Lions digital tools, receiving when you give (helping others actually helps you in many positive ways), all the great Lions gear, that ah-ha moment when you truly become a Lion and an International staff that is there to serve you. What a great deal indeed.

The Los Banos Lions Club was chartered on Dec 8, 1944, with the goal of helping families and children who are less fortunate. Throughout the years, local Lions have conducted Christmas programs at the convalescent home, sponsored special needs youth to attend summer camps, provided medical supplies for Mexico and the Philippines, and so much more. Lions participate in bell ringing for the Salvation Army annually as well as other community programs.

The club has special equipment to give preschoolers a preliminary eye test to see if follow-up eye care is needed. The school nurses can refer students for free eyeglasses. The club has developed a partnership with Stanton Optical in Los Banos to work with the eye care program.

Lions clubs collect used eyeglasses and hearing aids. These donations are cleaned and tested by a foundation in Oakland for future distribution to people in need.

In addition to providing scholarships to the local high schools, Lions clubs sponsor a speech competition for all high schools in the district. The competition is held annually in January. The winners can win cash awards and thousands in scholarships if they move to the next level. This year’s topic is: “Social Media: separate us or unite us”.

As with most clubs, the Covid-19 shutdowns had an adverse effect on the local club’s projects and membership. Los Banos Lions were doubly hit when their dedicated president, Ray Hammersley, passed away in 2019. Our local Lions club is working on rebuilding its membership currently. The 11 members continue to provide much needed services in the community.

In addition to having a fireworks booth and other fundraisers, the club collects aluminum pull tabs which support the Ronald McDonald House. The club collected 350 pounds the past year helping to bring their district to 12,000 total pounds.

Members of the Los Banos Lions club meet at 9:30 a.m. on the second and fourth of Thursday each month at Country Waffles Restaurant located at 845 West Pacheco Blvd in Los Banos. Raul Murrieta is the current president and can be reached at (661) 586-0461 or for additional information.

Sandy Lemas

Sandy Lemas is a longtime resident of Los Banos who has volunteered much of her time to community service. She will be writing a regular column on volunteers and volunteer organizations that help their community.