WASHINGTON — Washington Lions have supported the vision needs of the Washington area for 48 years, but the recent COVID pandemic has handed its 24 members a tough challenge.
A typical year finds Lions Club members providing concessions in the Amana Colonies for fly ball, a dog-racing competition; selling popcorn at Washington’s municipal band concerts; serving up a soup or pancake supper on election night; taking photos for Washington’s Santa; and busing tables at Pizza Ranch for tips, all of which typically bring the club around $6,000 of income.
The funds are used to give back to the community.
“We’re proud of our club’s legacy,” said club President Bill Ebert. “The primary programs of Lions Clubs International is helping people see by helping them buy eyeglasses, get eye exams, screen young children’s vision to catch eye problems early and promote diabetes education since it’s a major cause of blindness. Lions also give financial help for people who need hearing aids.”
Ebert said the majority of club funds goes to projects such as Washington’s new YMCA building, Lincoln School’s Camp Invention, the WCDC Christmas Party, HACAP’s Diaper Drive, Washington Community Schools’ After-Prom Party and Main Street Washington. Washington’s Lions have contributed toward local placement of Leader Dogs, as well as Iowa-wide projects which serve local citizens such as Camp Courageous, Iowa Lions Eye Bank and Iowa Lions hearing aid bank.
Without the typical funding, the club is seeking to raise funds virtually.
“We have pretty much drained our treasury to answer requests for help with eyeglasses,” Dave Stoufer, club second vice president said. “That may sound like we failed to plan for emergencies, but our philosophy is that our job as a service club is to immediately respond to needs rather than try to create an endowment. Holding back funds for a ‘rainy day’ can lead members to complacency about raising funds.”
Responding to pandemic requirements to limit physical contact, the club began virtual meetings online. Raising funds is another challenge.
“Since we couldn’t be in the park or at our concession stand talking to people about what we do we wanted to appear in our local media to remind them that the Lions are still here, working at what we do best, answering the needs of people who have vision problems,” said Jodi Ebert, club treasurer.
In a typical year, the club will receive around 10 requests for eyeglasses and hearing aids. However, in the first two weeks of 2021 the club already has received two requests with that number expected to increase throughout the year as more people experience hardship due to pandemic conditions, Jodi Ebert said.
Bill Ebert said he hopes to inspire people to join the Lions Club
“But if they are inspired to support our work with a donation, that would help our immediate goal to help us get through the pandemic, until we can get back out there and work,” he said.
Al Olson, club secretary, said the group has received much support from the Washington community for 48 years.
“We know that support will continue as we all work together to get through this difficult time,” he said.
Anyone wishing to support Lions Club vision projects may send contributions to: Washington Lions Club, c/o Jodi Ebert, 712 W. Washington Blvd, Washington, IA 52353. Membership information and further information about the Lions organization will be sent upon request.