MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE — At noon on Mondays, while others busily try to beat the lunch-hour rush, a group of 30 or more Lions gather in the meeting room at Independence Elks Lodge 1950.
Each week, members of the Central Lions Club eat together, listen to an inspirational speaker, and share stories.
But don’t be fooled by the Lions good-natured, casual gatherings; the members of this service organization roar to life when it comes to helping in their communities of Monmouth and Independence.
In fact, the club has garnered the attention of Lions District Governor Darrell Scott.
“There’s an influx, a constant incoming of new members,” Scott said. “And different ages, younger people. That’s one of the things that’s going to help a club continue, to have younger people to do service projects.”
Central Lions is 59 members strong, one of the largest in the region, spanning from Woodburn to Elkton, Lincoln City to Gardner-Reedsport and up to Blue River — about 20,000 square miles. The area includes 41 Lions clubs.
Mo Jaffer has been a member of Central Lions since 1973.
“I joined to do my share of contributing to the community and to the world beyond,” he said. “I have appreciated the camaraderie and the fun of doing things together.”
Jaffer, who has held various positions in Lions International at the state and international levels, has spent time in the wee hours of the morning delivering eye tissue to a hospital in Portland for transplanting.
That’s one of the things Lions do.
Sight and hearing is what Lions are known for, whereas other service clubs focus on other ailments and causes.
In 1925, Helen Keller addressed Lions members at an international convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, and charged them with being “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”
Since then, the group also has taken on helping increase health awareness in general through events such as hosting mobile health screening units all over the community.
“I enjoy projects that are helping people in our community such as eye glasses, hearing aids, school supplies, working with the mobile health screening unit and getting involved,” said Pat Jaffer, a member since 1980. “All of these our club has been involved in and many others.”
Lions Club service projects span the world over, but it’s the community efforts that are most visible to the public.
The club’s motto, “We serve,” echoes throughout projects, from Cans for a Cause — collecting cans to help send World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., as part of Honor Flight — to roadside cleanups of Highway 51.
Central Lions contributed $1,500 to the Honor Flight Cans for a Cause, more money than any other club in the state, Scott said.
Dori Showell found herself in the Lions pride because she was looking for an avenue to volunteer in the community.
“Basically, I wanted to keep serving our community and found the Lions a good fit for me,” she said.
Showell, a member for just about one year, enjoys the fellowship of other members, but also how easily much can be done with minimal effort.
“With Lions, you can choose how much or how little you want to be involved in projects,” Showell said. “You can put in a little time here and there, and when combined with the time from your fellow Lions, your club has accomplished a great deal as a team, or pride, as it is with Lions.”
Join the Pride
What: Central Lions Club, or Dallas Lions Club.
Where: Central’s club meets at the Independence Elks Lodge at noon on Mondays, except for holidays. Dallas meets the first and third Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Hong Kong Restaurant in Dallas.
Dues: Annual dues for Central Lions Club are $80. For Dallas, dues are $85 annually, with a $25 one-time membership fee. This fee is waived for veterans and active duty military.
Of note: Lions in both clubs are active in serving the communities of Polk County. Here are just some of the places you may run into a yellow vest-wearing Lion:
• Annual scholarship for a high school senior exemplifying service to others
• Eye exams and glasses for adults and children
• Hearing aids for adults and children
• Health screening for eye acuity, hearing, diabetes, glaucoma and blood pressure
• Collection of used eyeglasses and hearing aids
• Road clean ups
• Books for bikes at local grade schools
• Flags for first-graders
• Sponsorship of Camp Taloali for deaf children
• Partnership with Salvation Army bell ringing
• Food bank collections
• Peace poster contest