There is a pride of lions that roam the Swanton area, often going unnoticed. They number about thirty and have been present in the community for seven years without causing any harm or undue concern. They are, of course, the women and men of the Swanton Chapter of Lions International, the largest community service organization in the world.
The Swanton Lions Club received their charter on September 8, 2009 when the membership numbered eighteen. And, like today, it included people from many walks of life. Today’s group includes business owners, salesmen, teachers, automotive workers, retirees, and doctors just to name just a few.
Many people only know the Lions Club as the organization that collects eye glasses for recycling. While this is definitely accurate it is just a small part of their core mission, championing causes for the visually impaired as well as aiding in methods and research to prevent blindness and other eye disorders.
In 1925, just eight years after its inception, the Lions held their national convention at a lakeside resort in Sandusky, Ohio called Cedar Point. It was there that one of their featured speakers stood at the podium and implored the Lions to help those struggling with sight issues. She challenged them to be “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” Her name was Helen Keller. The Lions accepted her challenge and it has been the cornerstone of their mission ever since.
In the years following that convention the Lions have taken on many other causes as well and the Swanton Lions are a prime example of that growth. In their short seven years of existence, the Swanton Lions have earned the reputation of being one of the most active chapters in Northwest Ohio.
They organize and run the Giving Tree program that provides children’s Christmas gifts for needy families within the Swanton School District, an effort that includes collecting donations and buying, wrapping and delivering the presents. During the holiday season they coordinate the Salvation Army’s local Red Kettle Drive and have consistently been one of the area’s top performers. The Swanton Lions help raise funds for the Backpack Buddies program to help feed less fortunate families with their Dodge for a Good Cause event. Monies from other various fundraisers has been donated to a variety of causes including youth diabetes, helping the hearing impaired and fighting hunger.
In an effort to teach the importance of community service to the local youth, the Lions started a youth affiliate, the Leos Club. Leos can be seen removing trash and debris on Airport Highway as part of the Adopt a Highway Program or doing the same in vacant lots and business’s parking lots. They periodically collect recyclable materials, work with Habitat for Humanity and are involved with a number of other community service projects throughout the year.
Members of the Swanton Lions will occasionally ask for donations, for volunteers, for use of a venue or for help in organizing a fundraising event. What they will never ask for is a pat on the back or for any individual recognition for their efforts. For them it is all about the results of the work they do for the people in their community.
Their simple two-word motto, “We Serve”, is what they do and who they are.
In addition to their project committee meetings, the Lions hold one morning and one evening meeting every month to get project updates, financial reports, vote on motions and suggest “random” acts of kindness. Aside from their annual picnic for family members every Lions’ gathering is geared toward their overall mission, serving the community of Swanton. Their presence in public may not be so obvious but their contributions to the Swanton area are undeniable.