How many times have Lions clubs, big and small, received requests for eye care help and have been unable to do so because of a significant cost? Not many clubs can afford a $6,000 computer or a $9,000 cataract operation. In the past, clubs have joined together and passed the hat to raise money for a large cost, but those efforts have not always been successful.
Now a group of District 31-F Lion leaders have found a solution. It’s called the Knights of the Blind Charitable Trust.
Individual members – no clubs – put up a $500 initiation fee and then a subsequent $300 annual fee to fund the trust. The goal of the board of directors of the Knights’ Trust is to have 50 members on board and raise $25,000.
“A group of us were riding along one day and were wondering how we could help these people and handle the extraordinary requests that fall through the cracks for financial reasons,” said Past District Governor Dave Martin, the charter president of the trust and a Sanford Lions Club member. “Why don’t we form a trust and ask for sufficient application fees to build up a financial reserve.”
Then the founders – Martin, Past District Governor Dan Boudreau of the Western Harnett Club as vice president, Second Vice District Governor Vince Shimmoler of Western Harnett as secretary and Past District Governor Brad Logsdon of the Sandhills Club as treasurer – agreed with the idea and wrote a constitution and bylaws.
The idea was hatched in 2010, and the trust applied for and received a federal 501-3c non-profit status. The first meeting was held in March and the first quarterly board meeting was held in October.
The only limit is that the recipient must live in District 31-F. Each applicant must submit a request to an individual club, which forwards it to the trust. The trust then votes on the request. A simple majority is needed to fund the request.
Martin said the leaders are now working on two major points. First, they want to acquaint the clubs in District 31-F with the services the trust offers with “what we think are one of the greatest gifts to enable clubs to help with the most difficult requests,” he said. Then Martin said the trust wants to recruit as many Lions and interested lay people as possible to help the trust create a sufficient financial base. “We hope to recruit additional members from a large array of clubs in the district by explaining it to clubs, eliciting the importance of being a member of the trust and establishing an organization that will be a pleasure to be a member of,” Martin said. All current District 31-F officers and most past district governors have joined the trust. There are about 20 members.
The trust will hold four business meetings a year, followed by a social gathering with the wives. Already the trust has received two applications, accepting one and rejecting the other. The Rockingham Lions Club asked for help for a double cataract operation. The trust asks the club to make a small donation, then tries to obtain a grant from North Carolina Lions Inc., and finally asks the doctor and hospital to reduce their charges – even doing it for free. “One of the benefits of the trust,” Martin said, “is its bargaining power in getting the best price. “I’m very proud of the trust, because we have been in existence only since March, and we’ve already had another district attend our last meeting and take back information for possible implementation, “ he said. “We’re very pleased to share the information.”
Martin believes the Knights’ Trust could handle six or eight requests per year. “We want clubs to look at the trust as a resource,” he said, and he hopes to get grants from across the country, “but we haven’t gotten to that point yet.”
What Martin said the Knights’ Trust officers are so excited about will be looking back in 10 years and seeing what has been accomplished. “I think that will be very striking,” he said. “We will have changed a goodly number of lives, and all the cases would not have been serviced by individual Lions clubs. Catching those people who are falling through the cracks depends on the initiative of the club and the Lions coming forward and joining the trust.” New trust leaders will take office January 1st. They are Dan Boudreau as president, Past District Governor Jerry Thomas of the Hamlet Club as vice president, James Kiser of the Buies Creek Club as secretary and Logsdon as treasurer. Three directors also were elected – Janice Boone of the Angier Club for one year, Diane Westerbeek of the Clinton Club for two years and Martin for three years.
By Jack Stephens
District 31-F Public Information