Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield Lions Club will celebrate a milestone on May 5 when the club turns 100 years old.
The club will hold a formal recognition ceremony during the Lions Club District Governor’s Night this fall. During its century of service, the Fairfield club has done much to help people in need, particularly in the field of vision and hearing.
The Lions Club collects eye glasses at several locations in town, which are then sorted and distributed to people all over the world. The club assists local families with eye glasses for their children. Hearing aids are recycled through the Lions, and the Lions help with the cost of new hearing aids for those in need.
One of the projects the local club has invested in is a camera that takes pictures of children’s eyes. These images are sent to the University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology.
“We screen preschool age children with the hope problems can be diagnosed early and prevented later down the road,” said Fairfield Lions Club President Dorian Atwood.
Lions Club member Roland Peaslee knows very well the club’s work on vision programs, because one of them helped his son Alan. When Alan was 6 years old back in 1968, he received the smallpox vaccine. Unfortunately, Alan was one of only four people in the United States to suffer a severe reaction to the vaccine that caused his cornea to go cloudy, obscuring his vision.
Alan was treated with a drop that stopped the reaction, which would have blinded him otherwise. The drop was developed by a $200,000 grant from Lions International. Alan went on to become an eye doctor, and through his service in the Georgia National Guard, distributed eye glasses to countries all over the world.
Roland, himself an eye doctor, was involved in one of the Lions Club’s signature projects in Iowa, the glaucoma mobile, a recreational vehicle that traveled around administering glaucoma tests. The project began in 1962, at a time when glaucoma was not universally screened for among eye surgeons or optometrists. As glaucoma testing became more prevalent, the project added high blood pressure and diabetes screening. Another program the Lions Club pioneered in Iowa was founding the first eye bank at the University of Iowa.
Bob Keller has been a Fairfield Lions member since the early 1990s, and his interest was sparked back in high school when the Lions hosted a travelogue series at Fairfield High School featuring people who had traveled all over the world performing service.
Later in life, once Keller’s children were finished with sports and had graduated from high school, he felt he had more time to give to the community, and searched for a service organization to join. Keller’s uncle had been a Lion’s member for years, and Keller followed in his footsteps. He went on to become the club’s president and has served on various committees.
Keller said one of the things he’s glad the local Lions Club had a hand in was pushing the state to pave Highway 1 from Iowa City to Keosauqua. The initiative was known as the Good Roads Project.
“It’s amazing they thought that big,” Keller said.
Dave Eastburn joined Fairfield Lions in 2008 after he was asked by Don Wallace. Eastburn said he liked what the Lions stand for, and especially liked what the group does for the kids’ sight program and the cornea bank.
“I connected with the Lions’ mission and the people in the club,” Eastburn said. “I liked how they were committed to that service-oriented mission in our community.”
Eastburn became the club’s president in 2014. He said that, of all the things the club does, he’s especially proud of its annual spaghetti supper, which raises money for Fairfield school’s activities department including athletics, theater and music.
“What I find attractive about that is that we’re doing it with the kids, so we sell tickets, and the high school kids sell tickets. We wait tables, and the kids wait tables,” Eastburn said.
The Lions have not been able to hold their spaghetti fundraiser since 2019 because of the pandemic, but they are eager to resume the tradition as soon as possible.
[Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that glaucoma was not routinely tested by eye surgeons or optometrists. A previous version read “eye surgeons or ophthalmologists.”]