Van Zandt began with an overview of Lions International which is the largest service organization in the world with over 46,000 clubs in 200 countries. The focus of the club from the beginning has been preventing blindness and they were first known as the Knights of the Blind. Eye health is still their core purpose, Van Zandt said, and they have an eyeglass-recycling program, maintain eye banks, provide eye health screenings, and buy glasses for school children. In Africa, Lions Clubs have cured about 100 million people of blindness.
The clubs have branched out into other areas as well. They have an environmental component that has planted 9.7 million trees around the world and individual clubs also have programs that help the elderly and youth. Projects that support families are a top priority with Lions.
Under Van Zandt’s guidance, the club members listed all the activities the Garberville Lions support. Apart from supporting eye care, the local group maintains the Garberville Town Square. The owners of the square have recognized the club’s efforts by inscribing their name on one of the paving bricks. Club members also volunteer with Youth Alive programs, help run the Food Bank, the annual Healy Senior Center Yard Sale, the annual Redwood Games and they sponsor several sports teams. And, they partner with the Soroptomists to operate a food booth at the Summer Arts and Music Festival.
Every year the Junior Lions make and deliver Christmas gift baskets for the residents of the Cedar Street senior housing complex.
Van Zandt asked the members to identify what makes Garberville a special place. The list included the number of service clubs in the area, the mutual support they provide, the Food Pantry and the presence of a library and hospital.
The members came up with a long list of things they’d like to undertake as a club. A better scoreboard and Snack Shack at the little league field, a parking lot at the south end of town, supporting Heart of the Redwoods Hospice and reviving the sober graduation party were mentioned. The idea of adding public bathrooms to Garberville was raised. It was seen as very controversial but Van Zandt suggested that it would be good for tourists and noted that Eureka, Fortuna and Ferndale have public restrooms.
At their next meeting, the club members will review their list of possible projects and decide what to do first.
Van Zandt noted that “more helping hands” would enable the group to do more and the club is hoping to expand its membership. They meet on the first and third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Community Presbyterian Church. For information about the meetings and membership, contact the president, Richard Thompson, at (707) 923-4477.