To some, 85 years is a lifetime, but to the members of the Waxahachie Lions Club it is only the beginning of their service to the community. The club is celebrating its 85th anniversary and seeing who it can help next by living its motto, “We Serve.”
“Being a Lion is about serving your community and being a part of it in a different way. It’s kind of like being part of a family. Once you say that you are Lion it is always inside and with you,” former Lions Club president Jeff Lincks said.
“Lions is made up of people from all walks of life. In some countries being a Lion might not be the same as what a Lion is here in the United States but they still adhere to the same principals and ideologies of serving your community and helping your fellow man. There are no barriers because it is about people helping each other,” he said.
The Waxahachie club was organized Feb. 3, 1925, by field director Silas Johnson. Bob Walker was the first club president with Bob Griffin serving as secretary. The club was founded with 25 members and the first weekly meeting was held Feb. 10, 1925, in the Rogers Hotel. The club received its charter April 14, 1925. As in the current club, the members came from all parts of the community and ranged from restaurant owners to druggists, doctors, bankers, business owners, grocers and printers.
“Once you participate in it there is always that strong level of commitment. With anything that you do people only have so much time because you have family, jobs and everything in between. The level that each member can commit is different, but it is all the same heart and want. Once you give it makes a difference in you,” Lincks said.
“For a lot of people, when they think of Lions Club, they think of a yellow vest or old people. What is neat about Waxahachie is that if you go to one of the club meetings you will see a diversity of people.
Our biggest gift is not giving someone a hand out but giving them a helping hand,” he said.
One of the biggest fundraisers the club hosts each year is its mini grand prix race. The race takes place in downtown Waxahachie and the proceeds benefit local organizations in the community. Groups that the club has helped include the Boys and Girls Club in 2004 with a donation of $25,000, Habitat for Humanity in 2006 with a donation of $8,000 and the Waxahachie Senior Citizens in 2007 with a donation of $10,000. In addition, the club gives yearly more than $12,000 that is split between different nonprofit organizations and helps to fund college scholarships for students. The club is a 100 percent contributor to all Lions Club International Charities and is a model club in the Lions Club International Sight First Two Program. The program helps to provide eye care services in communities around the world.
“When you look at the Lions Club, you have doctors, lawyers, dentists and all sorts of professions, people that are very busy in their everyday lives. It demonstrates that there is a value of taking some of your spare time that you do have and giving back to the community,” Lions Club member Paul Stevens said. “I think that most of us feel really blessed in the life that we have and jobs that we have and this is just a way to give back.”
One of the main functions of the club is that it works to restore sight to people by providing glasses.
When the national club was founded, the Lions were challenged by Helen Keller to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness” in a speech given to them in 1925.
To carry on this challenge locally the club helps in the operation of a mobile eye clinic that goes to schools to help students and offers free eye exams and glasses to those in need. The club also has partnered with Hope Clinic to have an eyeglass clinic for adults.
“To me the biggest thing is when we do the eyeglass clinics for school kids. We have heard stories where kids are having difficulty in their grades or having behavioral problems. Finally it comes to light that they have bad eyesight,” Stevens said.
“Then they get good glasses and their grades improve and they behave,” he said. “It is really heart warming to know that you have a hand in really helping a kid turn themselves around.”
The need to give back and be a positive force in the community is one reason people join the club. Another reason is the positive results of what the Lions do in the community. For secretary/treasurer Tommie Worthy it is the message of service and what the Lions stand for that influenced her to join.
“I think that the key to our success is the willingness of the Lions to give of their time in efforts and energy to help those in need. If I’m going to belong to something I’m going to be a major part in it because I want to give and give 100 percent,” Worthy said. “I’m a person that likes to see people do better. People that join the Lions Club are just common ordinary people.”
For current Lions Club president, Dusty Autrey, being a Lion is about service.
“For me, (it’s) an opportunity to serve the community in all different ways. This can be through our eye glass clinic that we do for the children and adults, whatever the community needs,” Autrey said.
“I joined the Lions Club because Tim Bass, who was a member, asked me to join. I was interested in being involved in the mini grand prix race and that that is why I joined,” he said. “Expanding the mini grand prix has been a highlight because we are able to do more in the community.”
For more information about the Waxahachie Lions Club, visit its Web site at www.waxahachielionsclub.org. The club meets at noon every Tuesday at noon at Ryan’s in Waxahachie at 1400 U.S. Highway 77.
Contact Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews. com or 469-517-1458.