Three members of the St. Jacobs Lions club were honoured earlier this month by being named Melvin Jones Fellows, the highest honour of the Lions Clubs International Foundation.
Between them, Harold Geisel, Ross Ruppel and Jurgen (John) Lamers have 99 years of service with the club.
“My dad had been a Lions member and I saw what they were doing and I thought it would be all right for me too,” said Geisel, who joined 38 years ago. It was Geisel who invited Lamers to become a member in 1986.
The three Lions were presented their award on Jan. 8. The honour came as a surprise to Geisel and Lamers, who had no idea they’d been nominated.
All three of the men have been president of the club over the years; Ruppel is currently in his fourth term as president.
Lamers chairs the group that collects eyeglasses to be shipped to Third World countries.
Every three months, they visit hospitals, optometry clinics and homes around Waterloo Region collecting used glasses. Since the program started in 2002, the St. Jacobs Lions have collected more than 100,000 pairs.
“We are known as the knights of the blind,” Geisel said.
The Lions Club also does vision screening in kindergarten classes at local schools, something all three men enjoy.
“It’s awareness thing really,” Ruppel said. “Most of us enjoy working with those little ones, and you feel like you’re doing something too.”
The Lions help out with the Sunbeam Home in St. Jacobs, a group home for people with developmental disabilities. The club raises funds for necessary items like the new furnace and air conditioner installed last year, and they make sure Santa comes to the annual Christmas party.
Ruppel noted that there have been many changes over the 39 years since he joined the club. The Lions used to hold dances with Walter Ostanek, before he became Canada’s “polka king,” and drew so many people they could have filled the hall twice over.
In the past three years, the Lions have had some success with an annual fish fry, but declining membership in St. Jacobs is a cause for concern.
Internationally, the Lions Club is going strong; there are 1.3 million members of Lions Clubs International in 200 countries.