Lions International Celebrates 100 Years Of Service

THE YEAR 1917
It all started on June 7, 1917. Melvin Jones convened representatives from 27 businessmen’s clubs at a Chicago hotel. They agreed to unite and vote on a name. The name chosen was: The Association of Lions Clubs. Jones turned the previous businessman’s club model on its head—instead of angling for business, Lions would focus on community service.

THE YEAR 1920
Lions Clubs become international by chartering a club in Windsor, Canada. One of its first projects was a swim outing in a river for underprivileged boys.

THE YEAR 1925
During the international convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, Helen Keller beseeched Lions to become “Knights of the Blind” in the crusade against darkness. Her eloquent plea provided Lions with their primary mission.

THE YEAR 1930
Lion George Bonham painted a cane white with a wide red band to aid the visually impaired after he witnessed a blind man having trouble crossing a street. Clubs vigorously promoted white canes, and by 1956 every state had passed white cane safety laws giving the blind the right-of-way.

THE YEAR 1931
Lions headed south and established a club in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

THE YEAR 1935
Talking books for the blind were created and Lions helped distribute the books and machines.

THE YEAR 1939
After a fellow Lion was not able to enroll in the only U.S. school for guide dogs, members of the Detroit Uptown Lions Club started their own leader dog training school.

THE YEAR 1945
The world’s second eye bank, the Buffalo Eye Bank, was founded by the Buffalo Lions Club. Today, most eye banks are Lions-sponsored. Lions assisted in drafting the United Nations Charter, starting a lasting bond with the U.N.

THE YEAR 1947
Lions celebrated the association’s 30th anniversary in New York City. Lions Clubs at that point were the world’s largest service club group with 324,690 members in 19 nations.

THE YEAR 1954
After an international contest among Lions, an official motto was chosen: “We Serve”. The motto was submitted by Lion D. A. Stevenson of Font Hill, Ontario, Canada. Eleven Lions actually submitted that same motto, but Stevenson’s arrived first.

THE YEAR 1957
The first Leo club began in Abington, Pennsylvania, after Bill Graver asks his father, “Why isn’t there a Lions-sponsored service club for young people?”

THE YEAR 1961
Melvin Jones, the Lion’s founder and longtime secretary general of the association, died at the age of 82.

THE YEAR 1968
The Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) was established.

THE YEAR 1971
After decades in downtown Chicago, Lions Clubs International moved to its fourth and final location in Oak Brook, Illinois, 15 miles west of the city of Chicago.

THE YEAR 1987
The association amends its bylaws and invites women to become members.

THE YEAR 1986
Mother Teresa accepts the Lions Humanitarian Award. She urges Lions to love: “The most terrible poverty is being unloved and having no one to care for you”.

THE YEAR 1989
Lions International Peace Poster Contest began. Mustapha El Tawokji from war-torn Beirut, Lebabon, won first prize.

THE YEAR 1990
SightFirst was launched to curtail blindness. Fifteen years later, U.S.$182 million had been raised for 758 projects in 89 countries.

THE YEAR 1995
LCIF partnered with The Carter Center, led by former U.S President and Lion Jimmy Carter, to curtail river blindness in Africa land Latin America.

THE YEAR 2002
Lions charter two clubs in China, the nation’s first voluntary membership group since the 1950s.

THE YEAR 2004
After a devastating earthquake and tsunami in South Asia, Lions mobilized more than US$15 million to rebuild homes, schools and orphanges in five nations.

THE YEAR 2005
Past Lions International President, Dr. Tae-Sup Lee of Korea launched Campaign SightFirst at the international convention in Hong Kong.

THE YEAR 2010
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed US$5 million to the One Shot-One Life campaign. Lions raised US$10 million to support measles efforts over the next two years.

THE YEAR 2016
Lions met their goal and served their 100th million person in two years through the Centennial Service Challenge.

Information for this article was obtained from the Lions International Magazine, Centennial Issue (2017).