Lions Clubs defray membership fees for veterans

Kevin Spradlin Richmond County Daily Journal

November 1, 2013

The nonprofit organization known for helping low-income people obtain prescription eyeglasses and other optometry-related services are working to implement a new vision.

The latest initiative by Lions clubs in Richmond County takes a step towards bolstering membership and thanking military veterans at the same time.

There is normally a $25 fee that goes to the Lions Club International, the parent organization. But each of the three local chapters in Richmond County have their own membership dues as well. For the Hamlet Lions, it’s $35 per quarter.

Under the Involve a U.S. Veteran program, eligible people can receive an entrance or charter fee waiver when joining a Lions Club chapter. The program will run for two years, through June 2015. Up to 5,000 veterans are anticipated to enroll. Retired and honorably discharged veterans are eligible.

Rena Shedrick-Marshall, membership coordinator for the Hamlet group, said the Lions Club outreach effort is meant to reward veterans for what they’ve done and also eagerly welcome them for what they can do in their communities.

“They’ve already paid their dues” by serving their country in the armed forces, Shedrick-Marshall said.

She said membership in each of the county’s three chapters is low. Founding and longtime members are getting older, falling ill or passing away. But the spirit of each chapter is thriving and ready for new membership.

“We’re really at a kind of minimum,” Shedrick-Marshall said.

Local Lions Club chapters help those in need purchase eyeglasses, afford eye exams, fund eye operations and other vision-related procedures. Recently, the international group has started to help with recovery after natural disasters. Locally and around the globe, there is plenty the Richmond County groups are involved with.

“I need the community to see what’s going on and understand why we’re here,” Shedrick-Marshall said. “It’s not all business. It’s a lot of fun. We do take care of each other. When something goes wrong … we all jump in and help out as much as we possibly can. I think that’s the only way we’re going to survive.”

Eligibility requirements are rather simple. First, a person must be invited to the group. Shedrick-Marshall, however, noted that it’s as open a process as one can expect as “99.5 percent” of people who express interest are accepted.

Fundraising is an important component of each Lions Club chapter, but members come first, Shedrick-Marshall said.

“We can’t get the money if we don’t have the people,” she said.

The Hamlet Lions Club meets the first and third Thursday of each month at 6:45 p.m. Call Shedrick-Marshall at 910-206-0550 for details.

The Ellerbe Lions Club meets those same days at 7 p.m. Call Joey Bostick at 910-417-9537 for more information.

The Rockingham Lions Club meets the second and fourth Monday of each month at 7:15 p.m. Call Trey McNair at 910-997-9166 for details.