U.S. citizens in 1927 welcomed the opening of the Holland Tunnel, the first transatlantic telephone call from New York City to London and the unveiling of Ford’s successor to the Model T, the new Model A.
In Chattanooga, George Arnold was rallying friends and co-workers to form a new service organization called a Lions Club. That Chattanooga Downtown Lions Club marked its 80th anniversary this month.
The Chattanooga Downtown Lions Club was the first Lions organization in this city, according to president Sid Brown. There are now 14 Lions clubs in the area, all motivated by the club’s motto: We Serve. Together, these service-minded members cooperate to improve citizens’ eyesight and serve the blind.
Among vision projects supported by Lions are the purchase and training of guide dogs, and White Cane, which provides mobility training for the blind. Lions members collect and distribute eyeglasses to individuals, who may apply for help the second Wednesday of each month at Erlanger, and they fund the Lions Eye Bank, where cornea tissue is provided free for transplants.
Lions help support the Tennessee School for the Blind, Lions Diabetes Youth Camp and Tennessee Lions Quest, which provides vocational training to the disabled.
“The Lions organization does marvelous work internationally,” said Col. Carl Lamberth, 90, with 57 years of membership.
“The reason I joined was because the organization does a great deal of work with the blind. I think that’s one of the worst things that can happen to a person, because without vision you’re sunk,” he said.
Service was also what drew the attention of the newest Lion, John Newman. Mr. Newman, a past Jaycee president who had reached that organization’s age limit, said he forwarded his membership to the Lions because he was impressed by their charity work.
“We provide eyeglasses, we’ve taken on individuals who had sight problems who couldn’t take care of their medical bills, and we sponsor nursing scholarships,” Mr. Newman said. “It’s my small way to contribute back to the community.”
Mr. Brown said the Downtown Lions have donated nearly $100,000 to Southern Adventist University to endow a half-dozen nursing scholarships.
While the local club has raised several million dollars in support of all Lions vision projects, its biggest commitment was a 1996 pledge to the Tennessee Lions Eye Center in Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, Mr. Brown said.
“The Downtown Lions pledged $205,000. At that point, the most we had ever raised in a year was about $20,000. It was a five-year commitment, but we raised it in 3.5 years. We were the top donor to the project in the state,” said Mr. Brown.
“We’ve bought seeing-eye dogs and sent them to Rochester, Minn., to be trained,” the president said. “We helped a young girl from Chattanooga who was hiking in a North Carolina park when a thunder storm came up. She was hit by lightning and it blinded her. Lions paid to send her to Vanderbilt. She’s now writing a book about what to do if you are hit by lightning.”
“You’re never too old to join,” said Mr. Newman. “If you feel the calling to contribute in some way to your community, you just need to plug yourself into an organization or cause to help your fellow man.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Chattanooga Downtown Lions Club meets the first three Wednesdays of each month at noon at the Walden Club. Dues are $30 per quarter.
Anyone interested in membership in the Chattanooga Downtown Lions Club or wanting more information about Lions’ projects, should call 756-5777 or (706) 891-7675.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...