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Journey of service continues for Kingsport Lions Club

Suzi McKee • Feb 6, 2020 at 5:15 PM

Founded in 1946, the Kingsport Lions Club works diligently to carry out its motto of “We Serve” with every activity and event it plans. Meeting twice a month on the second and fourth Tuesdays at Giuseppe’s, the group continues the tradition of the world’s largest service organization by striving to make life better for those with whom it comes in contact.

With five service initiatives (vision, diabetes awareness, childhood cancers, hunger and the environment) at the core of its projects, the Kingsport Lions Club provides several opportunities for the community to enjoy the benefits of these initiatives.

Screening local school children for vision and eye problems has always been a major service emphasis of the Lions Club. “Lions screen preschool children throughout the area and help with school-age screening. Many children as well as their parents don’t even know they have vision problems,” said Bob Miller, the 101-year-old member of the Kingsport Lions Club. “Their vision can be saved if issues are discovered at this young age. Whether tumors are found, or vision is corrected with glasses, students have a much higher success rate if their vision is improved.”

Partnering with the Regional Eye Center, Lens Crafters and Dr. Torrey Carlson has certainly helped the Lions Club with its mission to serve through the purchase of eyeglasses when individuals need a helping hand. “Our partnerships help us to carry on the work that we enjoy doing,” added Lion Keltie Kerney. “We thank every sponsor who works with us as well as our donors in the community for helping us achieve our service goals.”

Another service in which the Kingsport Lions Club participates is its Diabetes Awareness Initiative. “Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness and other major health problems. But Type 2 Diabetes can often be delayed or avoided, if people improve their diet and exercise habits when they are pre-diabetic. “We screen for pre-diabetes at Appalachian Miles for Smiles events and with Friends in Need clinic,” explained Lion Doug Haseltine. “Based on the score of a questionnaire about risk factors, nurses will do an A1C test. The result indicates if a person is pre-diabetic or diabetic in three minutes. From our screenings, people can be directed to lifestyle change courses like those taught by UT extension agents; this gives them a way to avoid a serious medical issue.”

Other ongoing service opportunities that touch the lives of many local residents involve Warriors Path State Park, where the Lions Club developed the Braille Trail, donated the spinner for children, placed a drinking fountain for walkers as well as their pets, and helps to host Christmas at the Lake and Halloween in the campground each year, Bowling and Haseltine explained.

Installation of wardrobes and features of the Narnia Trail at Darrell’s Dream Boundless Playground was also a major effort. Signage is being replaced this spring so children and adults can take full advantage of this magical trail complete with sensory stations.

“We also support Ballad Health Pediatric Oncology-Hematology Clinic,” added Lion Carol Bowling. “We primarily donate gift cards to help families with expenses and donate games and journals for the children to help pass the time during their treatments. “

For the Boys and Girls Club of Kingsport, the Kingsport Lions Club donated picnic tables for using outdoor, plants for the gardening programs, games and snacks for rainy days, and encouraged the boys and girls to enter the Lions Club International Peace Poster Contest for 11-13-year-olds.

From the Picnic for the Mentally and Physically Challenged during Fun Fest to the Buddy Bench that promotes playing with new friends at Johnson Elementary School to screening for vision and pre-diabetes problems, the Lions Club has touched many lives with its dedication to service.

As with any organization, fundraising is the heartbeat of service initiatives.

The 74th annual Turtle Derby will be held this year on Saturday, May 16, at J. Fred Johnson Stadium. For a donation of $50, a business or individual can sponsor a turtle. Spectators will have a chance to win a number of prizes including both a boy’s and girl’s bicycle to be given away to someone in attendance. The Turtle Derby is a family event, and admission is free.

“It’s so much fun for the children as well as the adults,” Bob added with a chuckle. “This community event helps us to buy eyeglasses for those who need a helping hand.”

To sponsor a turtle this year, you may contact Keltie (the Turtle Derby chairman) at (423) 416-7407 or any of your Lions Club friends.

In September each year, the Kingsport Lions Club also hosts a golf tournament at MeadowView to help raise funds. Lion Bill Moore coordinates the efforts as golfers tee off for a day of fun and competition.

In 2017, Bowling and other potters worked to build tiny houses that were auctioned off to honor the Lions’ centennial celebration. Made from pottery, these little homes brought in $4,500, which the Kingsport Lions Club donated to Lions Club International Foundation. LCIF is the arm of Lions Club most often called upon to assist with immediate financial assistance for disasters, such as the fires in Gatlinburg.

The Kingsport Lions Club offers membership to any person over 18 who would enjoy working hand-in-hand to continue serving the Kingsport communities. The club invites interested individuals to contact lionskingsport@gmail.com for more information.

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