05/18/08 — Helping those who can't see

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Helping those who can't see

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 18, 2008 2:01 AM

Lions clubs are known for their efforts to help the visually impaired through the organization's White Cane and eyeglasses programs.

But Saturday afternoon at the Wayne Center, two local Lions clubs were serving up a picnic meal instead.

The annual VIP Banquet is jointly sponsored by the Downtown Lions Club and the Host Club.

"We do it every year on the third Saturday in May," said Carolyn Kirkland of the Downtown Lions Club. "They look forward to it, and it works well for them."

She added, "This and the dance we have in February are two of the social events that we have they look forward. You'd be surprised at the number of VIPs who don't get out except to come to our events. They just look forward to them."

Mrs. Kirkland said that about 100 people were expected for the meal, including the VIPs and guests and club members.

Along with the meal and fellowship, each VIP receives an envelope with $10 in it. There also are drawings for door prizes, of $20, $15 and $10 from each club.

"We always have a good crowd," she said. "I never have had anyone I have asked to help with the meal to turn me down. We all work together to do the best we can. It makes us feel better to know that we can help someone who sometimes can't help themselves."

For VIPs who lack transportation, the club members make sure they have a way to the program.

It's just part of what they do during the course of the year, Mrs. Kirkland said, to help 100 to 125 people with eye exams and glasses.

"We also do help people in other ways," she said. "We build ramps at their houses if they need them. If they have a doctor's appointment and do not have transportation, we will take them.

"Sometimes we just call on them to make sure they are doing well and to see if there is anything else can do above what we are doing."

But Lions clubs may be best known for collecting eyeglasses for the needy.

Locally, there are collection sites at drugstores, grocery stores, churches, and some local ophthalmologists also have collection boxes at their offices.

The clubs also work with the county school system to help children who cannot afford an eye exam or glasses.

That program is coordinated through the Wayne County Public Schools.

"We send them (students) to get their eyes examined and for glasses so they can see and do better in school," Mrs. Kirkland said.

The Downtown Lions meet every Thursday at noon at Ryan's.

The Host Club meets at Madison's on Thursdays at 7 p.m.

Ms. Kirkland said that anyone interested in joining a club should just show up.

"All they have to do is say, 'I am here for the Lions meeting,'" she said. "We need more lions."