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The Douglas Lions Club: Over 78 Years of Serving the Community

The Douglas Lions Club recently celebrated its 78th Anniversary and is stronger than ever, seeking to fulfill the Lions Club International (LCI) vision of being a global leader in community and humanitarian service.

Following the Lions Club motto of “We Serve” closely, the club is extremely active in the community, the state, and nationally as well as internationally.  With over 100 members, the club is three times the size of the average Lions Club and the fourth largest in the state of Georgia.

Lions Club International was founded in 1917 in Chicago by a young insurance agent named Melvin Jones, in a meeting with twelve people.  The initial goal of the club was to “help the community and serve humanity”.  From those humble beginnings, Lions Clubs International has grown into the largest service organization in the world, with over 1.35 million members in 46,000 clubs and 206 countries.

The primary mission of Lions Club International crystallized in 1925 when Helen Keller challenged the organization to become “Knights of the Blind in the crusade against darkness”.  Thus, prevention of blindness and sight conservation became the driving humanitarian cause for Lions Clubs International.

Following this cause, the Douglas Lions Club purchases over 300 pairs of eyeglasses each year for people in need who live in Coffee County.  The club works with local optometrists Dr. Ellen Fitzgerald, Dr. Kevin Murphy and the doctors at South Georgia Eye Partners to provide vision screenings and eyeglasses to those in need.

The Douglas Lions Club hosts one major fundraiser each year on the opening day of rifle season for deer hunting known as the Big Buck Contest.  The first Big Buck Contest was held in 1999 with 25 guns being given away and over 100 other door prizes.  Local businesses donate door prizes and money to purchase guns.  One hundred guns and over 100 other prizes including electronics and other valued door prizes were raffled at the 2013 Big Buck Contest, raising almost $60,000 for the club.  The 2014 event is expected to be the highest grossing event ever.  The club’s goal is to raise $75,000 to support its scholarships, flag program, eyesight conservation program to purchase eyeglasses, and the community in general.

The club is also known for its American Flag Program, where American flags and Lions Club banners are placed in our community on 12 designated Flag Days and other special occasions each year.  Lions members put out 180 American and 28 Lions Club flags along the main thoroughfares of downtown Douglas.  The American flag program has served to increase pride and spirit of patriotism in community, and has brought much recognition and appreciation to the Lions Club.

The Lions Club also raises money twice a year on White Cane Day, which advocates and supports programs and services for the visually impaired or blind.  In 1930, the Lions Club of Peoria, Illinois introduced the idea of using a white cane with a red band as a means of assisting the blind in independent mobility and identifying their special needs for travel consideration. Lions Clubs of Georgia promote White Cane Day and use it as a theme to raise funds for use by Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation.

The club is also fortunate to receive 10% of the proceeds of revenues generated by “Lions Club” labeled gum machines in the community.  Established by lifetime member Lion the late Charles Stevenson in 1957, FordSouth Enterprises has been operated since 1976 by Charles’ son-in-law and honorary member John McLean, who has 157 machines located in various business locations in Coffee County.

The Lions Club has always been focused on projects that benefit the youth of Coffee County.  One of the most jaw-dropping recent donations made by the Lions Club was $25,000 given to the local Boys and Girls Club to start the organization which will provide a safe, positive place where young people can develop the life skills they need to succeed.

A school affiliate of Lions Club, the Leo Club was recently established at Citizens Christian Academy.  Over 80 dedicated students are currently participating in the club led by Lions Angie O’Steen, Barry Bloom, Mark and Caroline Roberts, and Leisha Burke. One Leo Club graduate receives a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by the Lions Club each year.

The club has fully-funded seven South Georgia State College scholarships in honor of Lions David Dukes, Charles Cross, Dr. Roger Nye, and in memory of Lions Dr. Walter Wilson, Jr., Roy Jones, James Brown, and J.P. Barnett.  In addition, the club sponsors one Wiregrass Georgia Technical College scholarship in honor of Lion Francis Lott.  Each year the club also recognizes the Star Student/Teacher Achievement Rewards (STAR), bestowed to top graduates in local high schools along with outstanding teachers of their choice.  At Coffee High School, the Buck Preston Sportsmanship Award and the Willie Pearl Davis Leadership Award are given by the club to a graduating senior each year.

At the state and national level, the club supports Leader Dogs for the Blind, which provides guide dogs to people who are blind and visually impaired to enhance their mobility, independence and quality of life; the Georgia Camp for Blind in Waycross, which provides personal growth experiences for children, teens and adults with visual handicaps; the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation in Atlanta, which provides vision and hearing care for those who cannot afford eye exams, eyeglasses, eye surgeries, low vision aids, artificial eyes and hearing aids; and Learning Ally, an organization supporting people with dyslexia and print disabilities.

Throughout our community, the state, the nation and the world, the Douglas Lions Club serves proudly.  For more information on membership in the Douglas Lions Club, contact Andrea Taylor at ataylor@douglasga.org.

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Members of both the Douglas Lions Club and Boys and Girls Club of Coffee County came together recently as Lions Club President Andrea Taylor presented a $25,000 pledge to Boys and Girls Club President Barry Bloom. Lions Club members are currently preparing for the upcoming Annual Big Buck Contest that will be held on Saturday, October 19, at the Coffee High School Gym.

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Douglas Lion Lynn Smith undertook a zone chair project this year to collect children’s books to distribute to local organizations. With the help of her fellow lions, Smith was able to collect nearly 500 children’s books, which were distributed to Sadie’s House, Family Connection and the Mary Hayes Center. Each year the Douglas Lions Club takes on a special project to help other civic organizations and according to Smith, “It is incredibly rewarding to take on a project like this and I could not have done this without the help of the Douglas Lions Club.” Pictured: Karen Brunegraff, Lion Lynn Smith, April Thomason and Celest Vernon.

 

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