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Wanted: A few good Lions

Service club seeks members to help blind, needy

February 13, 2013 - "We Serve."

It's a simple motto, but it speaks volumes about who Lions Clubs International is and what the organization does.

Since 1947, Oxford's been extremely fortunate to have an active and generous Lions Club lending a helping paw to everyone from the visually-impaired to youth to folks in need.

"We're a nonprofit and there's no overhead," said Charlie Garrard, who's been an Oxford Lions member since 1972 and president for the past nine years. "We don't have any paid positions. It's just a good, charitable outfit.

"It's people who've come together to help their fellow man. You can help raise money for needy people and have a voice in where the money goes. I like the idea of being able to do that."

Founded in 1917, Lions Clubs International has 1.35 million members in more than 46,000 clubs in 144 countries.

Unfortunately, the Oxford club is currently suffering from a lack of members and that's something Garrard is hoping to change.

"It's just tough," he said. "A lot of organizations are struggling with the same problem."

Right now, the Oxford club has 24 members, however, due to age and various disabilities, Garrard indicated only about 15 or 16 are really able to help with fund-raisers and other projects.

"At one time, there was like 52 members in the club," he noted.

Having a larger membership pool to draw from would enable the club to better divide up its current workload and even expand its fund-raising endeavors.

The Oxford Lions Club currently raises about $8,000 annually, which it uses to help others in various ways.

"We could do a lot more if we had more members," said Garrard, who pointed to the Metamora Lions Club as a prime example. A few years ago, he recalled the neighboring club had 104 members and raised more than $100,000 in a single year.

Every year, the Oxford Lions conduct two main fund-raisers, the Goodfellow newspapers sales in December and White Cane sales in May.

Proceeds from the newspaper sales are used to help put together Christmas baskets – consisting of food, clothing and toys – for local families and individuals in need.

Last year, the paper sales – for which Sherman Publications donated 800 copies of the Oxford Leader – grossed $3,775.

This money, along with other donations from groups and individuals, enabled the Oxford Lions to provide 53 Christmas baskets for a total of 107 Oxford residents – 28 senior citizens and adults, plus 25 families with a total of 45 children.

Proceeds from the White Cane sales, along with other donations, are used to fund the Oxford Lions' other charitable endeavors.

"All together, there's probably a dozen different charitable organizations we support," Garrard said.

One of them is the Lions Bear Lake Camp in Lapeer, which serves children who are blind, visually-impaired, deaf and hard of hearing.

The camp provides educational and outdoor recreational experiences for special needs youth, which helps teach them valuable life skills and independence.

Another is the Leader Dogs for the Blind, a Rochester-based program that provides guide dogs, free of charge, for the blind and the visually-impaired in order to enhance their mobility, independence, safety and quality of life.

Each year, more than 270 of people attend Leader Dogs for the Blind's 26-day residential training program to be paired with a guide dog.

In addition to supporting these types of programs, the Oxford Lions provides eye exams and glasses, free of charge, to local individuals with limited financial means.

"We might do 10 to 12 of those a year," Garrard said.

On the education front, each year, the Lions offer two, $500 scholarships to Oxford area students who wish to further their education after high school.

"We've always tried to help out wherever we can," Garrard said.

The Oxford Lions Club meets on the first and third Thursdays of the month at Red Knapp's American Grill (2 N. Washington St.) in downtown Oxford.

Meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.

For more information about the Oxford Lions Club or how to join, please call Garrard at (810) 797-5840 or (248) 766-6729.

Inquiring folks can also call Treasurer Dave Morden at (248) 628-1293.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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