In 1929, a worldwide renowned evangelist was a charter member of this Dodge City organization.
Reverend Billy Sunday visited Dodge City in the late fall of that year to conduct revival meetings on top of Boot Hill. While he was here, the men forming the Dodge City Lions Club talked him into joining them in their endeavor.
Melvin Jones founded Lion Clubs International in Chicago in 1917 to address social problems brought on by World War I and by rapid industrialization.
He called on businessmen throughout the U.S. to get together and form Clubs. Just three years later, Lions became an international organization with the addition of Clubs in Canada.
Though there were only males in the organization, it was a famous woman who challenged the Lions to be "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness" at a Lions convention in Cedar Point, Ohio in 1925.
This woman was Helen Keller who had lost both her hearing and sight at a very young age.
Since that convention, the Lions have concentrated on blindness prevention and helping those who have low or no vision lead independent and productive lives.
As part of this mission, Dodge City Lions help local school children in need purchase eyeglasses. Usually, these students are referred to the Club by school nurses or teachers. The Club also collects eyeglasses to distribute to people of all ages overseas.
Lions International also sponsors cataract surgeries for people abroad and work to prevent blindness by preventing diseases which cause loss of sight.
In Kansas, Lions have a Mobile Screening Unit which screen people of all ages for vision, hearing and blood pressure. Because a leading cause of blindness is diabetes, the Unit also tests blood sugar.
The Lions mission has expanded to improve lives throughout the world in other ways beside sight related issues. Youth programs are a big part of the work Lions do both in our state and internationally. Additionally, Lions step in and assist in the immediate aftermath of disasters and help restore communities in the long term.
Lions also perform humanitarian projects everywhere in the world which help communities on a long term basis. Childhood cancer, hunger and the environment are more recent focuses of LCI.
Lions Clubs International has a 50-year old Foundation which raises funds for these projects. LCIF has been rated the number one non-governmental charity in the world, and all money raised goes to grants and projects. All administrative costs are covered by interest earned on the fund.
At the 1987 international convention, Lions Clubs International voted to accept women. Currently there are 1.4 million men and women in LCI in over 200 countries.
In the past the Dodge City Lions has had over 100 members. Like most service organizations in North American, the Lions Club has suffered a decline in membership. Currently, the Dodge City Lions are down to a dozen dedicated men and women members.
The Dodge City Club hopes to rebuild its membership and is looking for new members. The Club meets on first and third Wednesday's at noon on the top floor of the Dodge City Community College Student Union.