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The "Tip of the Iceberg" Rutherfordton Lions Club

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Photograph provided by Rutherfordton Lions Club

We've all seen them there at the intersection. Brooms in one hand and candy in the other. They stand out there all day, hour after hour, weaving themselves through the cars, collecting donations while handing out candy to everyone. They are the tip of the iceberg, a small representation of an enormous body of generous souls that do the same all across the planet. They are the Lions.

"The acronym 'LIONS' stands for

Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nations Safety.

The motto of all Lions is,

'We Serve.'

- Lion John Talley, Secretary,

Rutherfordton Lions Club

It's as simple as that - They serve those who are blind or visually impaired. "Helen Keller called us the 'Knights of the Blind." said Lion John Talley, Secretary of the Rutherfordton Lions Club. For over 100 years, since 1917, they have been in service to those in need. "The LCI (Lions Club International) has over 46,000 clubs in over 200 countries and more than 1.4 million members." In Rutherford County, there are three Lions Clubs; Rutherfordton, Lake Lure and Chase.

"Our guiding principle is that 'all money raised from the public must be returned to the public for its welfare.' Thus, all money raised by our fund-raisers must be used solely for social welfare purposes."

They have several events annually to raise funds for their organization. "Candy Day" is held in the Spring and Fall, and is the one event that most of us are familiar with. There are, however, several other events that they organize annually. Raffle ticket and boston butt sales, along with an annual golf tournament raise money used for mobility canes, educational grants for sighted children of visually impaired parents, a mobile eye screening unit that tours the state, clinical eye research and recycling of eye glasses. Their efforts also provide 'once-in-a-lifetime' adventures for those suffering from visual impairment in the form of camping and fishing trips. They are addressing the needs and issues associated with blindness and are pro-active in seeking to prevent losses and educate those at risk.

The tip of the iceberg is easily visible to many of us but what lies beneath the surface will surely inspire you to dig a little deeper into your pockets when you see the 'Lions' at that intersection. The depth and scope of the good work the 'Lions' are doing cannot be measured. The impact they have on individual lives is tremendous.

The following information, provided to the Rutherford Weekly by the Rutherfordton Lions Club, is consistent with other clubs here in the county, the state, nationally and globally. Reading it will open your eyes!

The Rutherfordton Lions Club:

Who We Are

The Rutherfordton Lions club...

• was organized on 10-11-1954 and chartered on 11-22-1954.

• currently has 20 members.

• is a non-profit, tax exempt 501(c)(4) Social Welfare Organization, which means that our primary purpose is social welfare and that our net income must be used solely for those purposes. We also provide benefits to our members such as meetings which have program speakers and where we talk and dine together.

• is one of three Lions clubs in Rutherford County, the other two being the Lake Lure and Chase clubs.

• belongs to North Carolina District L, which is the westernmost Lions district in North Carolina. The five NC districts from west to east are L, I, O, N, S.

• is a club within the Lions Club International (LCI), which was founded in 1917, so we celebrated last year our centennial. The LCI has over 46,000 clubs in over 200 countries and more than 1.4 million members. The acronym "LIONS" stands for Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nations Safety. The motto of all Lions is "We Serve."

• is a secular, non-political organization: one of our rules is no discussion of politics and religion in our meetings.

What We Do

We divide what we do into two major areas - administrative activities and social welfare activities, and we further divide the social welfare activities into fundraisers and charitable activities.

We are required by the LCI to have two financial accounts, one for the social welfare activities and the fundraisers that support those activities and one for administrative expenses, such a meeting room, the costs of meals, Lions vests, meeting paraphernalia, etc.

Money in these two funds must not be commingled. The guiding principle is that "all money raised from the public must be returned to public for its welfare." Thus, all money raised by our fundraisers must be used solely for social welfare purposes.

Administrative Activities

We meet twice a month every month of the year but December when we have a Club Christmas Party. At our meetings we typically sing a song, pledge allegiance to the flag, and offer a prayer. Then we have a meal and most of the time we have a program speaker after the meal. Then we have a business meeting.

Fundraising Activities

We have four major types of fundraisers: Candy Day, Camp Dogwood Raffle Ticket Sales, Boston Butt Sales, and our Annual Golf Tournament.

We have two Candy Days a year--one in the fall and one in the spring. Candy Day is a Saturday that club members collect donations and sell brooms at the intersection of Charlotte Road and 74. We hand out mints to the donors and non-donors alike, hence "Candy Day."

We sell Camp Dogwood Raffle Tickets in the early fall. (More about Camp Dogwood below.)

We sell Boston Butts just before Thanksgiving. Last year we sold 200 Boston Butts.

We hold our Annual Golf Tournament the first week in May.

In addition to these major fundraisers we participate in the Rutherfordton Town Festivals in October and May. However, our participation is more to have a "presence" in the community because we raise little money at these festivals.

As noted above, the net income from these fundraisers is used for charitable purposes.

We raise about $27,000 a year and our fundraiser expenses are about $8,500 and so our net income is about $18,500.

Charitable Activities

The Lions are well known for its programs for blind and visually impaired persons (VIPs). Helen Keller called us the "Knights of the Blind". In the past several years greater emphasis has been placed on diabetes programs because diabetes is the primary cause of blindness. In addition, the Lions have many other programs such as youth outreach, international relations, and environmental issues.

The Rutherfordton Lions Club's charitable activities are in four major areas: Support of the Lions Club International, support of the North Carolina Lions, Inc., support of our district, and local concerns.

Support of the Lions Club International: We support the LCI's world wide programs through contributions to the Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF).

Support of the North Carolina Lions, Inc.: The biggest program of the NC Lions is Camp Dogwood for the Blind (CDW), which is a recreational facility located on the shores of Lake Norman. For years our club has sponsored a county VIP to spend a vacation week at CDW.

Another well-known program of the NC Lions is an annual VIP fishing tournament at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It draws over 500 blind and VIPs and their guests from 77 countries.

In addition, the NC Lions provides support and mobility canes, educational grants for sighted children of visually impaired parents, a mobile eye screening unit that tours the state, clinical eye research and recycling.

We support the NC Lions with our Camp Dogwood Raffle Ticket Sales and much of our Candy Day Sales. We also send used eyeglasses to the NC Lions. We have eyeglass donation boxes placed in libraries, churches and several businesses. The used eyeglasses are given to people who need them in foreign countries. In the fall we gave 650 used eyeglasses to the NC Lions.

Support of our district's programs: The major program of our district, District L, is the Marjorie McCune Memorial Center in Black Mountain, which is an assisted living and independent living facility. We support the district with direct contributions. Last year the district made a special appeal to help hurricane victims and we contributed to that.

Local concerns

We donate to a number of charitable organizations such as the Grace of God Rescue Mission and St. Gabriel's Soup Kitchen. We have also supported Norris Library in buying large print books.

Every year for over thirty years the Lions Clubs in the county have held a Christmas Party for the Blind and Visually Impaired. All clubs in the county participate annually but each year a different club hosts and makes the arrangements for the party. This past December the Rutherfordton Lions Club was the host club and we held the affair at Spencer Baptist Church. The Lions Clubs coordinate the Department of Social Services on identifying the blind and visually impaired and sending them invitations.

We have a scholarship fund that we use for visually or hearing handicapped persons going on to some kind of post-secondary school, based on recommendations by the R-S Central High School.

For years, we have given annually math and science awards to students chosen at the R-S Middle School.

We help with the Salvation Army's Christmas Cheer Program. This year we contributed 137 staff hours.

By far the biggest charitable program of the Rutherfordton Lions Club is providing eye exams and eye glasses to the needy in the Rutherfordton, Spindale, and Forest City area. This was always an important program but it increased greatly after the 2008 recession and the state cut back on programs for the blind and visually impaired. Two-thirds of our budget for charitable contributions in this fiscal year (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018) is for the eye exam and eyeglasses program.

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