NASHUA — Up to 300 Lions Club members from all over New Hampshire gathered in the Gate City this past weekend to celebrate the world’s largest service organization and its mission.
Greeted by Joseph Preston, first vice president of Lions Clubs International, the 54th annual Lions Club Multiple District State Convention at the Crowne Plaza was a time to reflect on recent accomplishments and plan for future community initiatives.
“We represent every corner of the world, with about 1.35 million members in 208 countries,” said Preston, who was joined by his wife, Joni. “In the last six years, membership is going up internationally.”
In the United States, however, he admits that membership has been suffering throughout the past 15 years.
“We have to be creative to find new members and encourage younger generations. There are opportunities for people of all ages who have a passion for their local communities,” said Preston, who will become president of Lions Clubs International in July during the club’s international convention in Toronto.
As a community-based service organization, the Lions are instrumental in various worldwide efforts such as literacy projects, vision assistance, clean water endeavors, building parks and more.
Much of their work focuses on fundraising, with donations going directly back into communities to help with local needs, according to Preston.
“We are all about giving something meaningful back to others,” he said. “I know we are going to flourish. We have too many good things going on right now. You have to want to help and have it in your heart. Fortunately, there will always be people willing to help.”
Every penny collected goes directly to fundraiser efforts and does not assist with administration costs that are covered by dues, said Joni Preston, who has traveled around the world with her husband to assess the global initiatives undertaken by numerous Lions Clubs.
Lions Clubs International recently launched its 100 Million Acts of Service, a centennial service challenge encouraging Lions members to complete 100 million service acts before the program’s 100th anniversary in 2017.
“When you get Lions involved, it is amazing what can happen,” said Joni Preston.
Perhaps the most monumental moment since becoming involved in the Lions Club was a visit to El Salvador, said the couple from Arizona.
“That is definitely the most challenged country we visited. There is no industry there and no seaports,” said Joseph Preston, adding the Lions built an eye hospital in the region to offer critical cataract surgeries for residents. In India, Lions have established blood banks to help with the shortage of clean, healthy blood.
In New Hampshire, there are about 2,300 Lions Club members from 80 organizations. The Nashua Lions Club has 57 members and is the second-oldest Lions Club in the Granite State, according to Ed Lecius, club member.
The oldest member of the local club is Spiro Linatsas, who is 94 years old, according to Lecius. Linatsas is the owner of Nashua Wallpaper and Paint Co.