BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
One of the tenants of the Lions Club International is to always have in mind their obligations and responsibility to their nation, state, and community, and to give them loyalty through their words and actions. Members are to give of their time, efforts, and means for the better of those around them. These ideals plus many more are what makes the service of the Lions Club worth while in each of the communities they are able to serve.
The Lions Club International, like many organizations had small beginnings. In 1913, a man named Melvin Jones had just begun an insurance agency. He joined what was called the ‘Business Circle’, a luncheon group of businessmen in the area. The group, like many hours were highly devoted to promoting their financial interests, but Mr. Jones felt that there could be more. He had a compelling vision to see the community around him changed, he thought that their community could be changed if these business men put their intelligence and hard work towards the good of the community. With his prompting, business men from other clubs met and the foundation was laid, and the Lions Club International was initiated. Jones considered the name Lions to be a good name for the organization because a lion stood for strength, courage, fidelity, and vital action, all qualities that are present in the Lions today.
Polk County is fortunate enough to have the services of the Lions Club in Mena. Much like the Lions Club International, the local chapter of Lions is seeking to do intentional good in the community. Current Lions Club president, Kevin Sweeney, loves what the organization stands for and the good work happening, “This is such a good organization. When you send your dollar to the Lions, we put it to work.” Kevin and his wife (???), moved here from Little Rock and he had never been a part of the Lions Club before. “When I started at Union Bank I asked what organizations were giving back to the community, I saw the Lions Club doing a good work and wanted to help them move forward. I have really enjoyed the things we are doing.” The Lions purpose to give their efforts and resources for the better of those around them is evident through the causes they give themselves to. Both nationally and locally, Lions Clubs give their time to many things, but more specifically, devote themselves to sight and hearing programs along with diabetes programs.
The Lions Club began their work to help the blind and deaf when they were compelled by Helen Keller at the 1925 Lions Club International Convention to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” The Lions accepted the challenge and ever since has been working in sight programs to improve sight and prevent blindness. Locally, the Lions Club is partnering with Lyles Vision Clinic to help improve sight in the community through a variety of ways. “We partner with them to help provide eye screenings and glasses for those in need,” says Kevin. The Lions also started a Recycle for Sight program, throughout the year Lions and other volunteers collect used eyeglasses. Recycled eyeglasses are distributed to any who might have need.
Along with nation wide efforts to do intentional good to those around them, the local chapter of Lions are giving back for the better of the community. One of the greatest ways that the Lions have tried to give back is repurposing the Lions Golf Course for a disc golf course. For several years, the course had sat, not being used, and members of the club wanted to see the space being used for the good of the community. “When my son was in college at Arkansas Tech, I would go visit him and we would play. It was a blast. I wondered along with others, what if we could bring a disc golf course here? We believed it could get youth in our community involved and it was a positive way for us to give back.” The disc golf course is a full course with 18 baskets, the Lions hope to add more baskets later on in order to host tournaments, and even create interest from tourists. “We are thrilled each time we see people out playing and using the course,” says Kevin with a smile.
The Lions Club is yet another example of what happens when people come together to accomplish needs and seek to do intentional good in the community. “We are trying to build up our group. I would love to see more and more young guys, we have so many things that we are doing that is worth their time.” Their efforts to give back by giving of their resources, means, and labor is part of what makes Mena such a great community.