Picture left to right: President Lion R.C. Morrow, Lion Marie Burns, and Program Chairman Lion Dan Anderson. Photos by Dean Craig.
By Dean Craig Okmulgee Lion
Tuesday's Lions Club program is not necessarily a required program but it is one of informative happenings regarding the Oklahoma Lions Service Foundation, presented by Lion Marie Burns, Executive Director. Marie has an MBA and has worked for non-profit agencies since 1995, coming to OLSF in 2014.
OLSF was created in 1974 to act as the primary fundraising branch for the Lions' two state projects, the Oklahoma Lions Boys Ranch (now called Meadows of Hope) and the Oklahoma Lions Eye Bank. This is accomplished through a variety of fundraisers, most notably, our two annual campaigns, White Cane and Cowboy Cadillac. During White Cane, clubs throughout the state solicit funds for the Eye Sight program, many by simply carrying a bucket in front of a popular location in the community (usually a Walmart) and handing out White Cane stickers, symbolizing the use of the white cane by the visually impaired. Cowboy Cadillac fundraiser provides tickets to clubs who then sell these for the annual truck raffle.
Sight Conservation has been one of the major projects for Lions International since 1925 when Helen Keller attended our International Convention and challenged the Lions to become Knights for the Blind, a challenge the Lions gladly accepted. If not for the Oklahoma Lions, Oklahoma would not have an Eye Bank. And, since 1957, Oklahomans have received over 27,500 cornea transplants (these figures are at least five years outdated), restoring the precious gift of sight. We do not mean to "toot our own horn" but we feel it necessary to be accountable to the public who donate these funds to us, and we intend to be good stewards of these monies. Every penny goes for its intended purpose because ALL of our time and efforts is strictly voluntary.
The Oklahoma Lions Boys Ranch began many years ago on land donated by the Main family and was overseen by H.F. Donnelley, who was married to their daughter. The facility was originally called the IOA Boys Ranch, more specifically, meaning Individual Opportunity for Achievement. Eventually, Mr. Donnelley convinced the Oklahoma Lions to accept and sponsor the ranch as a state project. Initially, they dealt only with boys who were in trouble with the law or were wards of the court. Due to recent changes in the law, the Boys Ranch name was changed to Meadows of Hope and changed from a boys-only facility to also include both sexes in a foster-home-type setting.
The Mobile Health Screening Unit (MHSU) has been in operation in Oklahoma for the past 19 years. The OKC Downtown Lions Club and the Tulsa Downtown Lions Club each donated $7,500 to start the $186,000 to obtain a unit. Lions Club International Foundation gave $50,000 and individual Lions and other Lions Clubs made up the difference. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma and Integris Health also sponsored the unit's operating costs and are still a major donor. The MHSU travels statewide and with the help of local Lions and medical professionals offers free screenings for: visual acuity, glaucoma, blood glucose, blood pressure, bone density, lung capacity, body mass index (BMI), and cholesterol screening. This is about a $300 service but is free for everybody. We experience about a 40% failure rate, which means referral to one's medical provider.
Our local club is planning to bring the unit to Okmulgee so keep watching for the date. Also, we plan to have the spot vision cameras available for ages 6 months to 66 years (no age limit really) hoping to detect any eye deficiencies before the children begin kindergarten. This is also a free service and the parents are given a print-out of the results. We have previously had an entire article in the Okmulgee Times and on the internet, okmulgeenews.net, regarding the spot vision camera and we have about ten Okmulgee Lions certified to operate the spot vision cameras (with OSBI background checks--which is a requirement to work with schools and day-care centers).
All of these entities are under the auspices of the Oklahoma Lions Service Foundation and a Lion has provided up to a yearly $250,000 matching grant for 30 years for these state projects. But the Lions Clubs have to raise that amount to get the full grant. If we fail to raise the full amount, other charities are next in line to get what we don't raise. So, if anyone has any spare funds just lying around and not needed, what better way to help our fellow human beings. No person stands taller than those who stoop down to help a child or someone in need.
On a related note, we gave a 100-year Centennial commemorative glass to a lucky winner this week, Lion Kay Rabbitt-Brower. We have 10 more of these collector items to give, one per week, but you must be present to win. Names of those drawn, but not present, were: Dr. James Ward, Chris Azbell, Heather Sumner, Alicia Dudley, Marianne Payne, and Thomas Taylor. See ya' next week, and stay tuned to see who is next week's winner