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Letter: Lions and LEOs, a call to serve

"Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve." From Martin Luther King, one of the most recognized and literal appeals to serve, but what does that really mean? Serving your community is perhaps the most satisfying and rewarding work you can accomplish, regardless of your age or station in life. There is nothing more empowering and fulfilling than helping others by working with like-minded people who share the same passion, goals and pride for their community.

Research has shown that while over 90 percent of us want to volunteer at some point in our lives, only one out of four of us actually ends up doing so. There are many reasons for this, such as: “I don’t have the time or the money,” “I don’t know how I can help,” “my neighbors don’t care so why should I?” Or, as so often heard today, “What’s in it for me?”

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What’s in it for me? Only you can determine what it is that you want to accomplish by helping others. Community service is not just for adults either. Teens who volunteer also gain valuable knowledge and skills such as developing leadership traits, communication skills, and time management and decision-making capabilities; all of which help build a solid foundation for life after school, regardless of their chosen path.

There are several proven health benefits that can be realized in relatively short order when you volunteer your time or contribute in some other manner. One universally recognized benefit attributed to volunteering is stress reduction which can improve our overall physical and mental health. A 2013 study from Carnegie Mellon University published in the “Psychology and Aging Journal” reports that adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers; this most likely holds true for all age groups.

Deeply rooted in our nation’s storied legacy of service to others is Lions Clubs International. Founded in 1917, Lions Clubs International currently boasts over 1.4 million members in 44,000 clubs worldwide. The Lions motto is "We Serve." It is really that simple, nothing complicated about it. Beginning with a challenge from Helen Keller in 1925 for the Lions to become the “Knights of the Blind,” Lions Clubs International has endeavored to develop programs addressing the more significant issues of the day to include: vision and hearing awareness and screening, diabetes awareness, environmental stewardship, pediatric cancer, hunger and more. Something has changed recently though and membership overall has declined precipitously in some regions.

One unfortunate misconception with Lions clubs in recent years that has had a very detrimental impact on sustained growth in several communities within Harford County is the perception that the Lions clubs have become nothing more than social clubs. That perception in many communities has presented itself as a very tough obstacle to overcome because it is, unfortunately, not too far off the mark in many cases. However, it is in reality, an unfair perception in the broad sense.

Harford County currently boasts 10 active Lions clubs, two LEO youth clubs and the Aberdeen Lioness Club. Clubs county-wide are looking to inject renewed energy and activity into their organizations by developing innovative approaches to attract and retain members including the recruitment and development of niche groups within their membership base; people with special interests that have a desire to serve in some capacity, but want to focus on specific programs or activities such as promoting physical fitness, the local environment, homelessness or youth programs. Still others may have a community-based program they want to develop, but lack the resources to do so. What better way to promote your vision and serve your community than to engage a diverse group of like-minded friends, neighbors and classmates.

If you or your children have a desire to serve and want to learn more, plan a visit with a local club in your area and see what it is that the Lions and LEO clubs do in your community. Most clubs advertise their public meetings on signage around the community or on social media. If you are unsure if there is a club in your area, you can contact the Lions District 22-A at lions22a@gmail.com and they will put you in contact with someone in a club near you. If there are no clubs in your community, an existing club can work with you to charter a new club.

Lyle Garitty

Joppatowne

The writer is the treasurer for the Joppatowne Lions Club.

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