Group has lots of fun activities planned for 2017, including a free spaghetti dinner

COURTESY OF KING CITY LIONS CLUB - At one of the fall bi-monthly King City Lions Club luncheon meetings, everyone in attendance posed for a group photo.The King City Lions Club was founded Feb. 22, 1967, shortly after King City was incorporated and the King City Civic Association was formed in 1966, and members are celebrating the 50th anniversary this month.

"There were 30 charter members, and the first president was Sherman Cook," said former club president Bill Gerkin.

In 50 years, club members have racked up some major accomplishments, starting with donating more than $1 million to charities.

The list of their charitable works is almost endless, but the heart and soul of the club is the members who work tirelessly and enthusiastically for not only their community but for those in need around the world.

Gerkin and Ron Baker, another past president, recently got together to talk about the club's activities and the milestone 50-year mark.

"Our motto is 'We serve,' and personally I like to have the opportunity to serve both local people and the greater community," said Baker, and Gerkin added, "There are so many volunteer opportunities that people don't even know about until they join the club and look into it."

Lions Clubs International has a long, rich history of its own and will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year as well. One hundred years ago, Chicago business leader Melvin Jones persuaded members of his local business club to expand their activities beyond business issues to better their communities, and they held an organizational meeting June 7, 1917. Similar groups around the U.S. were invited, and the group took the name of one of them to become the Association of Lions Clubs.

Helen Keller addressed the Lions Clubs International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, in 1924, challenging the Lions to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness," which was the impetus for the club to aid the blind and visually impaired.

In addition, the Lions club was one of the first nongovernmental organizations invited to assist in the drafting of the United Nations Charter and has supported the UN ever since.

Lions Club International has become the world's largest service club organization with 1.35 million members in more than 46,000 clubs around the world.

Baker and Gerkin are justifiably proud of the King City club's long list of accomplishments that include:

n Giving between $18,000 and $25,000 annually in scholarships to Tigard and Tualatin high school seniors;

n Giving between $5,000 and $8,000 annually to the Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation to support those in need and without insurance for cornea transplants, cataract and eye surgeries, hearing aids, cochlear implants and more;

n Loaning convalescent equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers and hospital beds in the King City, Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood areas;

n Paying for eye examinations, glasses and hearing aids for youth and adults in the area who cannot otherwise afford eye care; and

n Contributing between $10,000 and $15,000 annually to mostly local charities.

BARBARA SHERMAN - Sitting in the King City Clubhouse living room, King City Lions Bill Gerkin (left) and Ron Baker discuss the organization's many charitable endeavers over the past 50 years.Members donate time to such causes as Gales Creek Camp for diabetic children; Oral Hull Camp for the blind and visually impaired; Camp Taloali for the hearing impaired; the Good Neighbor Center for homeless families; providing U.S. flags for first-grade students; transporting those who need medical care; collecting used eyeglasses, hearing aids and cell phones to be distributed to those in need; and participating in missions to Mexico and Ghana to provide health-screening and eye-screening tests and then provide eyeglasses that match the prescriptions.

King City Lions also volunteer for such non-profit groups as Loaves & Fishes and Meals-On-Wheels, the Salvation Army (ringing bells), the American Red Cross (blood drives), and Mission Mahalo that supports troops overseas.

Another project is raising money to send veterans on four-day Honor Flight Network trips to Washington, D.C. The Lions have raised thousands of dollars by recycling money-back cans and bottles and have four drop-off sites: the King City Clubhouse, King City Grocery Outlet, the Tigard Senior Center and the Lions newspaper drop-box located in the south parking lot of the Bull Mountain Professional Center on King James; also, for years the Lions also have collected newspapers which they sell to recyclers as another fundraiser.

"The Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation operates an eye bank called Vision Gift in Southeast Portland," said Gerkin, who is a courier for the eye bank. "Lions couriers transport the corneas for shipment by bus, airline, UPS or FedEx from all over the state for processing. Vision Gift supplies eye tissue and corneas for transplant to most of the hospitals in the greater Portland area, and Lions couriers transport the corneas to hospital surgery centers.

"The Lions couriers feel a great sense of satisfaction for helping someone be able to see again or for the first time."

He added that new eyeglasses are now being fabricated at the Lions' LEAP Optical Lab that produces high-quality, low-cost new eyeglasses.

"The Oregon Lions' Mobile Health Screening Program has grown quite rapidly since the Lions purchased all new cameras and vehicles to screen all first- and third-grade students in Oregon in the new 20/20 Vision Program," Gerkin said. "These cameras take a photo of the children's eyes that is much more accurate (in determining their vision) that the old eye charts. The Oregon Legislature mandates vision screening for students but provides no funding for it.

"This will hopefully change when the Lions lobby the Legislature for funding this year. During the last school year, the Oregon Lions screened nearly 180,000 children. This year the goal is to screen more than 200,000."

Oregon Lions completed their 20/20 vision planning process in 2011 that included identifying many children who were not getting their vision screened. Since the program was implemented, the Lions have increased the number of students screened by more than 400 percent, up from 38,000 students in 2012.

According to the Lions, 25 percent of students have a treatable vision problem, but less than 10 percent of students who need glasses will get them.

Through the Mobile Health Screening Program, the Lions plan over the next year to reach marginalized, under-served groups, including migrant workers, domestic violence victims, the homeless and those receiving assistance through organizations such as food pantries.

The King City Lions bring the Oregon Lions' Mobile Health Screening Program van to the community for five free health screenings: visual acuity, blood pressure, glaucoma, diabetes and hearing. This service is sponsored by Pacific Pointe Retirement Inn, McCann's Pharmacy & Medical Supply, Grocery Outlet and Columbia Bank.

The Lions have always utilized fun and creative ways to raise funds for their various programs, and some of the events coming up in 2017 include a luau in August, the annual golf tournament Aug. 25, the annual Pancake Breakfast in October and the annual Holiday Bazaar Nov. 10-11.

The Lions also host bingo games on the first Monday and third Thursday of the month starting at 6 p.m. at the King City Clubhouse "with a $500 progressive black-out every evening," Gerkin said.

The King City Lions hold a lunch meeting on the first and third Tuesday of each month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mizumi Buffet, 13500 S.W. Pacific Highway, and the Lions buy lunch for newcomers.

For more information, call President Scott Stierle at 503-290-8764 or Michael Marchand at 503-684-5213.

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