Local Lions offer up fruits of their labor

In 1925, Helen Keller approached an 8-year-old Lion’s Club and challenged them to be “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness. Since that meeting, the Lion’s Club has expanded to become a 1.3 million-person organization spanning 205 countries. Existing solely as a non-profit organization, the Lion’s Club provides treatment and assistance to the visually and otherwise impaired, as well as disaster relief, community restoration and public service.

“The Lord Baltimore Lion’s Club was sponsored by the Millsboro Lion’s Club, and was chartered in 1946,” noted Jack Bauer, president of the Ocean View chapter. “Our primary purpose is sight services, such as Vision Research and pre-school eye screening. We go to schools and screen children under the age of 5 in the hopes of catching eye deficiency, like lazy eye, early on. After 5 or 6 years of age, some of that stuff can’t be cured.”

“Over the years,” he said, “we’ve built hundreds of ramps to assist the handicapped, as well as providing used medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and walkers, to those in need in the area.”

As a non-profit organization, the Lions rely on fundraisers pay their expenses. Each year, they host a chicken dinner in August, a citrus fruit sale during the winter months and a car raffle in the summer. These three events alone provide the majority of their funding. The rest of the money they raise comes from donations, and flag and book sales.

Currently, the Lions are working on their annual fruit sale.

“The fruit comes directly from Florida; from C.J. Citrus,” noted Bauer. “November through January, we sell navel oranges, and after January we sell Honeybell and Temple oranges. We also sell grapefruit and tangerines. All the orders we receive each month are submitted for the fruit on Monday and we receive it that Friday. On Saturday we distribute the fruit from three pick-up locations.”

The fruit can be picked up at Pine Tree campsite in Ocean View and the Salvation Army in Rehoboth from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. and at the Millsboro Civic Center from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. The price of fruit ranges from $17 for two-fifths of a bushel of navel or Temple oranges, to $35 for a whopping four-fifths of a bushel of Honeybells. C.J. Citrus’ fruit comes straight from the grove and is grown using ecologically-sound farming techniques.

In addition to reaching out to the community through the fruit sales and other fundraisers, the club also relies on the public to help directly with its work.

“Presently, we have about 58 members in our branch; and we generally fluctuate between 55 and 60.” Bauer said. “We’re always looking for more members to help continue our long standing tradition, ‘We Serve.’ The Lion’s Club used to be a men’s club, and we had a Lioness’ club for women; but more recently the organization decided to do away with that. A lot of people don’t realize that we’re men and women now,” he emphasized.

“All the money we earn from the public, we put back in to the community,” he added. ‘That’s part of the international organization’s charter. Any money used to operate the club comes from the Lion’s members.”

Locally, the Lion’s Club supports youth organizations such as the Boy and Girl Scouts, Little League sports teams, the Special Olympics and Camp Barnes, as well as providing scholarship opportunities. They assist the Millville Volunteer Fire Department, as well as working with the Eye Bank of the Delaware Valley and the Leader Dog Program, providing canine companions to disabled individuals.

“Almost all of the Lion’s Clubs also collect used eye glasses,” noted Bauer, “which are then sent to Third World nations. The Lion’s Club also regularly helps people who cannot afford eye exams or glasses pay for their treatment.”

Anyone interested in purchasing fruit from the Lions can call their voicemail hotline at (302) 539-0619. Instructions for placing an order will be provided by the voicemail system. Questions about orders can also be addressed by calling (302) 539-7037. Anyone interested in joining the Lion’s Club can reach their membership chairman, Karl Gude, at (302) 539-3498.