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Lions Clubs International -- Triumph of an Idea

The International Association of Lions Clubs began as the dream of Chicago insurance man Melvin Jones, who wondered why local business clubs -- he was an active member of one -- could not expand their horizons from purely business concerns to the betterment of their communities and the world at large. 

Jones' idea struck a chord within his own group, the Business Circle of Chicago, and they authorized him to explore his concept with similar organizations from around the United States. His efforts resulted in an organizational meeting at a local hotel on June 7, 1917. 

The 12 men who gathered there overcame a natural sense of loyalty to their parent clubs, voted the "Association of Lions Clubs" into existence, and issued a call for a national convention to be held in Dallas, Texas, USA in October of the same year. 

Thirty-six delegates representing 22 clubs from nine states heeded the call, approved the "Lions Clubs" designation, and elected Dr. William P. Woods of Indiana as their first president. Guiding force and founder Melvin Jones named acting secretary, thus began an association with Lionism that only ended with his death in 1961. 

That first convention also began to define what Lionism was to become. A constitution and by-laws were adopted, the colors of purple and gold approved, and a start made on Lionism's Objectives and Code of Ethics. 

One of the objects was startling for an era that prided itself on mercenary individualism, and has remained one of the main tenets of Lionism ever since. "No Club," it read, "shall hold out the financial betterment of its members as its object." 

Community leaders soon began to organize clubs throughout the United States, and the association became "international" with the formation of the Windsor, Ontario, Canada Lions Club in 1920. Clubs were later organized in China, Mexico, and Cuba. By 1927, membership stood at 60,000 in 1,183 clubs. 

In 1935, Panama became home to the first Central American club, with the first South American club being organized in Columbia the following year. Lionism reached Europe in 1948, as clubs were chartered in Sweden, Switzerland, and France. In 1952, the first club was chartered in Japan. Since then, the association has become truly global, with clubs in more than 170 countries and geographical areas worldwide. 

The Name

The proper name of the association is "The International Association of Lions Clubs." Many Lions, however, prefer the use of the shorter form of "Lions Clubs International." 

The Emblem

Throughout the world, Lions are recognized by the emblem they wear on their lapels. It consists of a gold letter "L" on a circular purple field. Bordering this is a circular gold area with two lion profiles at either side facing away from the center. The word "Lions" appears at the top, and "International" at the bottom. Symbolically, the lions face both past and future -- proud of the past and confident of the future. Lions wear their emblem with pride. 

The Motto

The motto of every Lion is simply "We Serve". What better way to express the true mission of Lionism? 

The Slogan

The slogan of the association is "Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nation's Safety (LIONS). 

Official Colors

The royal colors of purple and gold were selected as the official colors when the association was organized in 1917. Purple stands for loyalty to friends and to one's self, and for integrity of mind and heart. Gold symbolizes sincerity of purpose, liberality in judgment, purity in life and generosity in mind, heart and purpose toward humanity. 

Lions International Today

Although the youngest of the world-wide service clubs, Lions International is by far the largest, with more than 1,415,600 members in 42,732 clubs in 178 countries on six continents. Lions International, officially named The International Association of Lions Clubs, was formed on June 7, 1917, after a merger of business luncheon clubs in Chicago with the Lions Clubs of Indiana. Melvin Jones, a young Chicago insurance agent, is considered the Founder
of Lionism and served for more than forty years as the first General Secretary of the national organization. 

The first national Lions convention was held on October 8, 1917, in Dallas, Texas, with 23 clubs participating. International Conventions are now held annually during July, with more than 15,000 Lions from around the world voting as official delegates. 

The 1997 Convention will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Association is a non-profit corporation governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. All of Lionism serves under the Lions Code of Ethics and the Clubs are governed by the Objects of Lions Clubs International.

Since the International Convention of 1920, when Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become "Knights of the Blind in the battle against darkness," sight conservation has been a high priority of Lions service. The first white cane was
invented by a Lion, and the first school to train guide dogs for the blind was started by Lions. 

Lions established the first eye banks to harvest corneal tissue to give sight to those who suffered blindness because of injury or disease. In 1993, the efforts of
Lions culminated in the Lions Sight First Campaign, a fundraising drive to raise funds to restore the sight of the 32,000,000 people in the world who have
curable blindness and to prevent blindness from occurring to an equal number who might lose their sight in the next 25 years. The campaign, which
raised more than $146 million, will accomplish those goals around the world. 

Lions International Headquarters
300 22nd Street
Oak Brook, Illinois 60521-8842 USA
(630) 571-5466 - Fax (630 571-8890
Office Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Central Time,
during which visitors are always welcome.

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Last update: 12/02/2020
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