The Broken Bow Lions have a common goal, to help their fellow man. These Knights of the Blind do more than help those who want to see, their charitable work here locally extends to those in need, with special emphasis on our children.
Don Wolford says the reason for his involvement is easy ... “you enjoy helping people. That’s what we’re there for.”
The local organization has donated to the Children’s Christmas fund through their ‘Rent a Santa’ program, and just last week raised over $1,100 for the local food pantry by sponsoring the Bliz and Glitz evening at the Municipal Building.
Through their dictionary project, they furnish a reference book to every fourth grader in Custer and Blaine County.
Once a year they bring in a Mobile Screening Unit for the local schools to check children’s sight and hearing, and then they help purchase eye glasses and hearing aides for people who can’t afford them.
They operate a Helping Hands House gathering and distributing used furniture, bedding and kitchen items for those in need.
They do benefits for people with health issues and victims of disasters.
And then they go to a rest home monthly and play bingo with the residents. They also sponsor Santa Claus for all of the rest homes in Broken Bow and provide the residents with a treat.
They have also taken on the job of co-sponsoring the Parade of Lights with the Chamber of Commerce.
In the last three-four years, the local organization has collected 4000-5000 glasses and 300 hearing aids.
“There is an optometrist who cleans them and categorizes them according to prescription to ship to a territory in need,” Don explained.
There are areas in the world where River Blindness is a huge issue. Children are becoming blind through bad water, Don added.
Another initiative he is proud of is a project to help knock down measles in Africa.
“We’ve teamed up with Bill Gates and the World Health Organization. Shots are only $1 each. We’ve been challenged to help raise the money.”
Don has been a Lion for the past nine years. He joined when his brother, Walt, suggested the organization. Walt has been a Lion for 35 years.
“When I first joined I started seeing what the organization does and how widespread they are,” he said.
A turning point for the local organization was when they were fortunate enough to acquire a fireworks stand. That helped raise some good money which made it easier to accomplish their goals. Twenty percent of the profit is donated to the local fire department for their annual fireworks display.
The club also sells Colorado peaches and pears each year and that project has grown as well. Moneys from the fruit sale go for local projects, but also for the Nebraska Lions Foundation.
Even though he won’t admit it, Don is part of the force that is making the club successful. He has been a local president as well as a statewide governor.
He is proud of the members, of how hard they have worked, and quick to pass any accolades their way.
“We don’t do it for reward, we try to help those who need help. It’s a good group.”
Don was also kind enough to furnish the following history of the local and international organization.
The Broken Bow Lions Club was originally Chartered in 1949, but only lasted a short time. It was Chartered again in 1954 and sponsored by the Merna Lions Club which no longer exists.
Today, there are 20 members in the Broken Bow Lions Club serving their community in many ways.
They are now working with the Ministerial Association to help with a building project. Their goal is to build a “Helping Hands House,” to become a home for not only the food pantry, but also to house those things a family in need might need.
He says he has been fortunate to be able to travel with the organization, to Anchorage, Alaska, and Korea.
“It’s amazing the number of people you meet who become lifelong friends.”
The International Organization of Lions Clubs
The Lions organized in 1917 when Melvin Jones and a group of Chicago business men gathered together to form the organization for the International Organization of Lions Clubs. In 1920, the Club went international when the first club was established in Canada. Mexico followed in 1927, and in the 1950s and 1960s, clubs were established in Europe, Asia and Africa.
• In 1925, Helen Keller addressed the Lions Clubs International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, and challenged the Lions to become the ‘Knights of the Blind’ in the crusade against darkness. Since that time the Lions main objective has been the prevention and helping of the blind and visually impaired.
• In 1945, the Lions Clubs International became one of the first nongovernmental organizations invited to assist in the drafting of the United Nations Charter.
• In 1957, their Leo Program was organized focused on the youth of the world, creating opportunities for personal development through volunteering. There are approximately 144,000 Leos and 5,700 Leo Clubs worldwide.
• In 1968, the Lions Club Foundation was established in order to assist Lions with global and large-scale humanitarian projects.
• In 1990 SightFirst was launched. Since 1990, Lions have raised more than $346 millions for the restoration of sight, and blindness prevention projects on a global scale. SightFirst targets the major causes of blindness: cataracts, trachoma, river blindness, childhood, blindness, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.
• Today the Lions are the world’s largest service organization with around 1.35 million members in over 45,000 Lions clubs active in over 206 lands spanning the globe.
When a disaster strikes the Lions are often first on the scene, “since we have members that live close by,” and usually the last to leave and furnish grants to help with food and shelter.”