To empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding through Lions Clubs.
To be the global leader in community and humanitarian service.
The Beginning of Lions
In 1917, Melvin Jones a 38-year-old Chicago business leader, told members of his local business club they should reach beyond business issues and address the betterment of their communities and the world. Jones’ group, the Business Circle of Chicago, agreed.
After contacting similar groups around the United States, an organizational meeting was held on June 7, 1917, at the LaSalle Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The new group took the name of one of the invited groups, the “International Association of Lions Clubs,” and a national convention was held in Dallas, Texas, USA in October of that year. A constitution, by-laws, objects and a code of ethics were approved. At that convention Thirty-six delegates representing 22 clubs from nine states were in attendance. When this Association was formed it was written that women were to be part of the Organization, a decision that was appealed at the following year’s convention. It wasn’t until 1987 when Women were again, allowed to be called Lions. (See Lioness History for the history of women under Lions Clubs International.)
The First President of the Association was Dr. W.P. Woods, of Evansville, Indiana. Melvin Jones was elected as the acting secretary, where his journey as an official Lion started, ending only when he died in 1961. On May 14th of 1918, the first club in District 5M-6 (at the time 5M-1) was charted in downtown St.Paul. The St.Paul Downtown Lions club still proudly serves that community today with projects such as Athlete of the Year, present wrapping with Shop with Cops, Book drives and food drives. Lions clubs provide services to their community based on the needs that are present. This varies based on the location of the club, the population, the economic climate as well as cultural changes.
Becoming an International Association
Within three years (1920), Lions became an international organization when it established its first club in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Seven years later, Mexico followed suit, then China and Cuba and in the 1950s and 1960s LCI increased its growth into Europe, Asia and Africa. Since then, we’ve earned high marks for both integrity and transparency. We’re a well-run organization with a steady vision, a clear mission and a long – and proud – history.
Lions challenged by Helen Keller
In 1925, Hellen Keller addressed the Lions Clubs International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio and challenged Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” Since then, we have worked very hard to continue on with our service of the blind and visually impaired. In 1990 Lions launched a sight campaign called SightFirst and later SightFirst II was born. These programs have raised more than $415 million since that time and helped to prevent blindness in many regions throughout the world. SightFirst targeted the major causes of blindness: cataract, trachoma, river blindness, childhood blindness, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma and the efforts were continued with the launch of SightFirst II.
In the State of Minnesota, Lions have continued this service with support of the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank and the Minnesota Lions Vision Foundation. Our members also collect eye glasses, do sight testing and support diabetes causes (which can ultimately affect the eye sight.)
To view a 9 minute RE-ENACTMENT of Helen Keller’s speech at the 1925 convention click here
Lions and the United Nations
The ideal of an international organization is exemplified by our enduring relationship with the United Nations. We were one of the first nongovernmental organizations invited to assist in the drafting of the United Nations Charter and have supported the work of the UN ever since.
Lions and Youth
In the late 1950s, we created the Leo Program to provide the youth of the world with an opportunity for personal development through volunteering. There are approximately 144,000 Leos and 5,700 Leo clubs in more than 140 countries worldwide.
Lions District 5M-6 currently has three Leos Clubs serving side by side with Lions and Lioness in their areas. Not only do the youth provide service to our communities, they provide a new prospective to the Lions Clubs Organization!
In 1975, the name Lioness and the emblem that is currently used were approved by Lions Clubs International and membership was opened up to any woman over the age of 18. Lioness clubs (AKA Lionelle clubs) evolved from women’s auxillary programs that were formed for the wives of all-male Lions clubs. These clubs originally supported the activities and goals of local Lions Clubs but now run side by side with Lions Clubs with their own programs and fundraisers as well as joint club projects. The Lioness Clubs adopted a motto in line with Lions, “We Serve, too!”
In 1987, Lions Clubs International amended their club constitution to admit both men and women into Lions Clubs. As men and women were serving side by side in Lions Clubs around the world, Lions Clubs International made a decision in 1991 to fully remove Lioness Programming from the organization. Despite this transition, many of the Lioness Clubs have chosen to remain Lioness clubs today for a multitude of reasons.
Establishment of the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF)
In 1968, the Lions Clubs International Foundation was started to assists Lions with global and large-scale local humanitarian projects. Through our Foundation, Lions meet the needs of their local and global communities.
For a 6 minute video that shows a few of the projects completed with the support of LCIF, click here.
Extending Our Reach Today
Lions Clubs International extends our mission of service every day – in local communities, in all corners of the globe. The needs are great and our services broad, including sight, health, youth, elderly, the environment and disaster relief.
Almost 100 years after its formation, Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization, with 1.4 million members in more than 47,000 clubs in 211 countries/geographical areas and countless stories of Lions acting on the same simple idea: let’s improve our communities. “We Serve”
Sources for the above information: www.LionsClubs.org, “Lions Clubs International Healthy Club Toolbox” and many Lions from 5M-6.