HUMBOLDT — Humboldt Lions Club members are looking for a way to help Iola students who have vision problems.
Cole Herder, vice president of the Humboldt club, outlined how the Lions annually aid in the purchase of eye glasses for Humboldt kids who have vision concerns that could impede their learning.
“The elementary principal lets us know when there is a student who seems to have trouble seeing and is falling behind,” Herder said.
A three-member committee checks into the situation and if the students’ family needs assistance, the club comes to its aid by helping pay for an eye examination to determine a prescription for glasses, which the club then helps purchase.
“We’ve helped students each year,” Herder said. “Our standard (for assistance) is $100 for basic glasses, but depending on the circumstances we have paid up to $150.”
He isn’t sure how long the Humboldt club, chartered in 1951, has been involved in the vision project, but “it was long before I became a member,” 26 years ago.
The club has provided up to seven pairs of glasses, and there was an exceptional year, Herder recalls, when it gave 12. Most years it’s one or two.
Two Iola Lions clubs were active for years and with vision projects being a central role of Lions International their members were involved. Both Iola clubs have disbanded, leaving a void.
“We’ve had applications from Iola (for assistance in purchasing glasses) and we’ve tried to help at least one student the last couple of years,” Herder said.
However, Humboldt is a small club of 22 members and most of the money its generates through fundraisers comes from the Humboldt area, he explained.
“We just can’t afford to do much more than help in Humboldt,” Herder said.
Meanwhile, vision problems among Iola children whose families have a hard time making ends meet tugs at the Humboldt Lions’ heart strings.
“We want to do something,” Herder said, with a thought being a partnership with an Iola organization, perhaps another service club.
“We feel there probably are youths in Iola who need glasses and are being held back in their studies because of that,” he said. “That could affect them for life.”
If a group of Iolans would like to resurrect a Lions club, Herder said Humboldt members would be eager to help however they could.
“The Iola Lions did a lot of good things through the years,” Herder recalled. He mentioned its sponsorship of the Allen County Fair Livestock Premium Livestock Sale and several years of putting on high school basketball tournaments, as well as vision and other projects.
THE LIONS’ role in efforts to eradicate blindness started in 1925, eight years after the organization was founded, when Helen Keller addressed the Lions Clubs International Convention in Cedar Point, Iowa. Keller, born blind, deaf and dumb, challenged Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”
In addition to helping young students who need glasses, area Lions clubs, including Humboldt’s, provide vision screenings for children attending day care, preschool and elementary school.
“It’s helpful to catch a vision problem when a child is young, 2 or 3 years old,” Herder said.
The screening often is done with a device district Lions purchased that resembles a Polaroid camera and does cursory diagnoses. If a problem is detected, the youngster is referred to an optometrist.
HERDER SAID the vision program was at the forefront of Humboldt Lions service activities, but the club does more.
“We also have a program to work with diabetes and Lions respond to natural disasters,” he said.
In Humboldt the Lions have a fireworks display each July 3, provide manpower for the Biblesta bean feed, before, during and after the Bible-themed event, and have sponsored an Easter Egg hunt since the club’s founding 63 years ago.
“I remember some of the old-timers talking about hard-boiling and coloring eggs for the Easter hunt each year,” Herder mused.