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, in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The new group took the name of one of the invited groups, the "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.
Within three years, Lions became an international organization. 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.
1920: Going International
Just three years after our founding, Lions became international when we established the first club in Canada. Mexico followed in 1927. In the 1950s and 1960s international growth accelerated, with new clubs in Europe, Asia and Africa.
1925: Eradicating Blindness
Helen Keller addressed the Lions Clubs International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, USA, and challenged Lions to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness." Since then, we have worked tirelessly to aid the blind and visually impaired.
1945: Uniting 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.
1957: Organizing Youth Programs
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.
1968: Establishing Our Foundation
Lions Clubs International Foundation assists Lions with global and large-scale local humanitarian projects. Through our Foundation, Lions meet the needs of their local and global communities.
1990: Launching SightFirst
Through SightFirst, Lions are restoring sight and preventing blindness on a global scale. Launched in 1990, Lions have raised more than $346 million for this initiative. SightFirst targets the major causes of blindness: cataract, trachoma, river blindness, childhood blindness, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.
Today: Extending Our Reach
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. Our international network has grown to include more than 207 countries and geographic areas.
Become a Member Today
Lions club members are men and women who strive to make a difference in their local community as well as in communities worldwide.
Their volunteer efforts go beyond the support of vision care, to addressing unmet health and education needs worldwide.
Bonita Springs Lions Club:
On April 16, 1962, in the small fishing community of Bonita Springs in Southwest Florida, with a population of approximately 1,500,
a group of concerned citizens representing the "Greatest Generation" wanted to serve their community in a significant manner. That idea resulted in a generous giving Lions Club of 21 members.
In 1970, the membership made the decision to purchase four lots on Pennsyl¬vania Ave., and in 1975, the Club was offered a donation of a double wide trailer by the local school board and the dream for a
Lions' Thrift Store to serve the community was conceived. The store was opened in 1976 and a new building was constructed in 1978 to accommodate the expanding business. Additions were added in 1995 and again in 1997.
As the years passed and lots became available, we continued to purchase adjoining properties and now own three and one half acres on the corner of Pennsylvania and Indiana Avenues.
The Lions Center was constructed in 1991 and provides an excellent meeting place for our membership, zone and district meetings. The Center is also used for our very popular "pancake breakfast".
This fund raising and social event for the community has continued since 1972. We consistently serve approximately 300 patrons each Saturday during the months of January through March.
In 2007, we sponsored and chartered a Leo Club here in Bonita Springs. These future Lions have proven their value by assisting at eye screenings, Eye Clinic, Pancake Breakfast, Farm Fresh Market, and Thrift Store.
Their bi-lingual language skills have been invaluable as we provide services for the Hispanic population in our community. On May 21, 2007, we dedicated our new Eye Clinic and focused on redirecting ourselves to Helen Keller's challenge to be "Knights of the Blind". Since that time, the Clinic and the dedicated staff have been beacons of hope for those less fortunate members of our community.
The clinic is staffed by volunteer Ophthalmologists as well as Optometrists in conjunction with several private practice groups. Due to the Clinic's overwhelming success, it was decided to expand the Clinic, adding the ability to provide certain surgical services that will further serve the community. This project was rededicated on Friday, February 17, 2012.
As a half-century of time has brought us to this point, we are proud of our accomplishments but look to our future with great optimism.
We consistently support charitable needs in our community, state and worldwide. The clinic was renamed The Florida Lions Eye Clinic in 2017
The Bonita Springs Lions Club has funded these needs in excess of $275,000 per year for the past ten years and has topped $300,000 several times.
We received special recognition as the number one club in the world for our financial support for the Sight First II project.
We have been honored as a "Model Club" and humbly accept the recogonition and responsibility that accompanies this special acknowledgement.
Our present membership of 140 members responds with enthusiasm to our motto "We Serve". Over eighty percent of our members consistently give volunteer hours of service.
The programs that we support are too numerous to include all of them; however, our distribution of funds focuses on programs that identify needs for the visually impaired.
Educational needs in our local schools and various community projects can count on the Bonita Springs Lions Club to lend a helping hand.
Bonita Springs Lions Club
BONITA SPRINGS, FL 34135
Club Address:10346 Pennsylvania Ave
MD 35 District 35-I Florida USA Club number: 012666
Honored as a World Wide Leader
Read Melvin Jones' Biography to learn more about the founder of Lions Clubs International:
Melvin Jones was born on January 13, 1879 in Fort Thomas, Arizona, the son of a United States Army captain who commanded a troop of scouts. Later, his father was transferred and the family moved east. As a young man, Melvin Jones made his home in Chicago, Illinois, became associated with an insurance firm and in 1913 formed his own agency.
He soon joined the Business Circle, a businessmen's luncheon group, and was shortly elected secretary. This group was one of many at that time devoted solely to promoting the financial interests of their membership. Because of their limited appeal, they were destined to disappear. Melvin Jones, then a 38-year-old Chicago business leader, had other plans.
"What if these men," Melvin Jones asked, "who are successful because of their drive, intelligence and ambition, were to put their talents to work improving their communities?" Thus, at his invitation, delegates from men's clubs met in Chicago to lay the groundwork for such an organization and on June 7, 1917, Lions Clubs International was born.
Melvin Jones eventually abandoned his insurance agency to devote himself full time to Lions at International Headquarters in Chicago. It was under his dynamic leadership that Lions clubs earned the prestige necessary to attract civic-minded members.
The association's founder was also recognized as a leader by those outside the association. One of his greatest honors was in 1945 when he represented Lions Clubs International as a consultant in San Francisco, California, at the organization of the United Nations.
Melvin Jones, the man whose personal code – "You can't get very far until you start doing something for somebody else" – became a guiding principle for public-spirited people the world over, died June 1, 1961 at 82 years of age.
Born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, USA, in 1880, Helen Keller developed a fever at 18 months of age that left her blind and deaf.
With the help of an exceptional teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan of the Perkins School for the Blind, Helen Keller learned sign language and braille. A few years later, she learned to speak. As an adult she became a tireless advocate for people with disabilities. And in 1925, she attended the Lions Clubs International Convention and challenged Lions to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness."
The Lions accepted her challenge and our work ever since has included sight programs aimed at preventable blindness.
Helen Keller Day
In 1971, the Board of Directors of Lions Clubs International declared that June 1 would be remembered as Helen Keller Day. Lions around the world implement sight-related service projects on Helen Keller Day.
Helen Keller's Speech at 1925 International Convention
Cedar Point, Ohio, USA June 30, 1925
Dear Lions and Ladies:
I suppose you have heard the legend that represents opportunity as a capricious lady, who knocks at every door but once, and if the door isn't opened quickly, she passes on, never to return. And that is as it should be. Lovely, desirable ladies won't wait. You have to go out and grab 'em.
I am your opportunity. I am knocking at your door. I want to be adopted. The legend doesn't say what you are to do when several beautiful opportunities present themselves at the same door. I guess you have to choose the one you love best. I hope you will adopt me. I am the youngest here, and what I offer you is full of splendid opportunities for service.
The American Foundation for the Blind is only four years old. It grew out of the imperative needs of the blind, and was called into existence by the sightless themselves. It is national and international in scope and in importance. It represents the best and most enlightened thought on our subject that has been reached so far. Its object is to make the lives of the blind more worthwhile everywhere by increasing their economic value and giving them the joy of normal activity.
Try to imagine how you would feel if you were suddenly stricken blind today. Picture yourself stumbling and groping at noonday as in the night; your work, your independence, gone. In that dark world wouldn't you be glad if a friend took you by the hand and said, "Come with me and I will teach you how to do some of the things you used to do when you could see?" That is just the kind of friend the American Foundation is going to be to all the blind in this country if seeing people will give it the support it must have.
You have heard how through a little word dropped from the fingers of another, a ray of light from another soul touched the darkness of my mind and I found myself, found the world, found God. It is because my teacher learned about me and broke through the dark, silent imprisonment which held me that I am able to work for myself and for others. It is the caring we want more than money. The gift without the sympathy and interest of the giver is empty. If you care, if we can make the people of this great country care, the blind will indeed triumph over blindness.
The opportunity I bring to you, Lions, is this: To foster and sponsor the work of the American Foundation for the Blind. Will you not help me hasten the day when there shall be no preventable blindness; no little deaf, blind child untaught; no blind man or woman unaided? I appeal to you Lions, you who have your sight, your hearing, you who are strong and brave and kind. Will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in this crusade against darkness?
I thank you.
- Helen Keller -