International Association of Lions Clubs
The genesis of the International Association of Lions Clubs has an interesting history.
In 1917, Mr. Melvin Jones, a Chicago insurance agent, convinced his luncheon club – the Business Circle of Chicago – that it should ally itself with other independent clubs to form a national organization that would be dedicated to networking for business and social purposes and for improvement of the community as a whole.
Among the groups invited to participate was the loosely knit association of Lions Clubs headquartered in Indiana and led by Dr. W. P. Woods. At the time, there were a handful of Lions Clubs in existence in the mid-West.
Responding to the call from Melvin Jones, in October 1917, 36 delegates representing 22 independent clubs from nine states met in Dallas, Texas. These delegates agreed to come together as one organization under the banner of the Lions Club name. Dr. Woods was elected as the first president and founder Melvin Jones was named Secretary. This marked the beginning of Melvin Jones’ association with the Lions Club that continued until his death in 1961, a 44-year commitment of volunteerism.
The mission of the organization in the early days was to encourage high business ethics – to put service ahead of profit and to uphold the highest standards of conduct in business and the professions.
An interesting side note is that World War I had ended and the country was beginning an age of materialism – high rollers, swingers, the roaring twenties. Could Melvin Jones and other Club founders have been looking for a safe haven to counter less than ethical business practices that were developing? We will never know for sure, because there is nothing in the written history to support this theory.
Eight years later, the 1925 annual convention of the Lions Clubs was a monumental event. The Club became International with the inclusion of a Club from Windsor, Ontario (which was charted in 1921) and the mission and vision was altered when a 45-year old blind and deaf woman asked to speak before the convention of delegates. This woman was Helen Keller, one of the most famous women in United States history and a role model for millions of people worldwide. Since that night in 1925, the major service commitment of the Lions organization is to eradicate preventable blindness and reversible blindness around the world.
Today, the Lions Club is made up of over 45,000 clubs with over 1.4 million members in 200 countries and geographical areas. In 1990, a Club was chartered in Moscow – once closed to voluntary clubs – and in 2001, the first Lions Club was chartered in Communist China, the first organization of its type allowed to organize in China.
Our motto: We Serve
Our slogan: “Liberty, Intelligence, our Nation’s safety"
Our colors: Purple for loyalty to friends, integrity of mind and heart and Gold for sincerity of purpose, purity in life and generosity in mind and heart.
In 1968, Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) was created to help Lions serve the world. The Foundation accepts donations from Lions and non-Lions – and in turn, funds (in the form of grants) are made available to assist Lions Clubs with large scale humanitarian efforts that are too large for the local clubs to handle.
Examples of the amazing work done by LCIF:
- In 2004 when the tsunami hit Indonesia Clubs worldwide contributed $20 million to assist those in need. This money was made available to local clubs in the affected areas and the first house rebuild in Indonesia was built by a local Lions Club with funds provided by other Lions Clubs through LCIF.
- In 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina, $5 million was forwarded to local clubs in the affected areas, another example of Lions enabling Lions to help others.
More than $600 million has been awarded worldwide through LCIF since 1968 to provide support and resources to those in need. The community outreach work done by Lions Club members throughout the global community is in addition to the many millions of dollars given over the years to build and equip eye hospitals and clinics; to fund research to prevent blindness, and to combat diabetes (a major cause of blindness); to raise awareness of eye diseases; to operate our EyeMobile – the list goes on.