By EMMALEE C. TORISK
About four years ago, when the Struthers Lions Club disbanded because of dwindling membership, Bob Whited felt disheartened.
“It was a good club at one time,” said Whited, past district governor of Lions Clubs District 13-D, and extension chairman for District 13-D, Region 1. The district is composed of 52 Lions Clubs in Mahoning, Trumbull, Portage, Stark and Columbiana counties. “I never got over the fact that [the club] went down without a fight.”
But Whited is hoping to give the Struthers Lions Club, originally chartered in 1970, a second chance — and wants to do so “as fast as possible.” He’s already planning an informational meeting for mid-April at Struthers City Hall, likely in the council caucus room, and is working to recruit potential members, including those from the club’s first incarnation who have since moved on to nearby groups.
Men and women 18 and older — from college students to mid-career professionals to retirees — are welcome to join, and membership is not exclusive to Struthers residents, Whited added. Lions Club International requires at least 20 members to charter a club, and a $30 initiation fee is required of each new member. Annual dues often vary by club.
“We’re sincere in our efforts,” Whited said. “We want the type of people who, really in their heart and soul, want to serve.”
The service organization began in Chicago in 1917, and by 1925, had found its purpose: eye care. At that year’s international convention in Sandusky, Helen Keller challenged Lions Club members to become “knights of the blind in this crusade against darkness,” explained Whited.
Today, Lions Club International boasts more than 1.3 million members worldwide, and retains its focus on helping with preventable blindness by raising money for eye exams and glasses for community members who can’t afford it. The organization also funds guide-dogs for sight-impaired individuals along with eye surgeries for those in need.
Bill Rausch, president of the Boardman Lions Club and membership chairman for District 13-D, Region 1, added that each Lions Club also completes a number of other service projects, selected by its members and based upon the community’s needs.
Clubs typically meet once or twice a month for an hour or two, and do at least one service project monthly, Rausch said. But membership is about more than service; it’s also an opportunity “to get to know your neighbors and make new connections.”
“Everyone’s busy,” said Rausch, explaining that members aren’t penalized for the occasional missed meeting. “We just want somebody invested in making a difference in the community.”
Rausch acknowledged, too, the existence of the Struthers Rotary Club, another service organization in the city, but said the relationship between the two wouldn’t be adversarial. Instead, he’s hoping that the Struthers Rotary Club and the Struthers Lions Club could even work together on some of their projects.
Struthers Mayor Terry Stocker noted that there’s room in the city for another service organization, and that in a city of more than 10,000 residents, enough are bound to be interested and willing to become involved with the Struthers Lions Club, helping it again come to fruition.
“It’s a feather in the cap of Struthers, and in local government,” Whited said, “to have an operating Lions Club to help people in the community.”
For more information about the Struthers Lions Club, contact Bob Whited at 330-792-7907.