“The world is a better place because of Lions, and it needs more,” said Gary D’Orazio, an Eagle, Idaho, resident who was in town to help the Creston Lions Club celebrate its 75th anniversary.
It takes the former international director only a few minutes to make a convincing case. Lions Club International is the world’s largest service club organization, with 1.35 million members in 46,000 clubs located in 219 countries around the world.
“Our members do whatever is needed to help our communities,” he said. “We are into everything — sometimes too much!”
Founded in 1917, the Lions Club is best known for its work in fighting blindness, but that mission has expanded to include health issues, such as obesity, D’Orazio said.
“And we get involved with kids wherever we can, however we can.”
He has been a Lion since 1980 when he and his family resided in Elko, Nev., except for several years when they moved to Oregon. A longtime affiliation with the Albertsons supermarket chain meant the D’Orazio family moved around a lot, and a Lions membership helped him meet new, community-minded people wherever he went.
The work taken on by Lions clubs is often subtle, he said.
“We don’t go for landmarks, we go where we are needed. We are not high profile,” he said. “There is no issue that we wouldn’t address.
D’Orazio was invited to speak when local Lions gathered to celebrate the club’s anniversary on Oct. 4. Creston is in District 19N, which spans the international border. Taking time to celebrate was important, he said.
“We are family. We don’t just work all the time!”
Creston Lions Club president Hugh Johnston has been a member for 20 years. He first joined when he worked in the newspaper business in Alberta, then continued his active involvement when he retired to Creston eight years ago.
Currently, he said, Creston Lions are working on reconditioning the old Creston fire department mobile kitchen, which will be used at events, especially “for our famous breakfasts.”
“It’s an old army truck,” he said. “Rock solid and plenty of life left in it.”
It was the Lions club that started the Creston Valley Blossom Festival, Johnston said, and the club remains actively involved to this day.
Women have been included in Lions since 1987, a move forward that Johnston and D’Orazio agree has helped the club thrive. Locally and internationally, clubs are holding their own in a time when other service organizations are struggling and even disappearing.
“We have a lot of new faces,” Johnston said. “There have been several new additions recently.”
Members get plenty of hands-on opportunities. The Creston club has just completed a restoration project at the Highway 3A viewpoint on the way to Wynndel, which they “inherited” from the Kiwanis Club.
“And we are great supporters of the TAPS (Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors),” he said.
Like D’Orazio, Johnston said that Lions members’ strength is not in promoting the club or its works.
“We are the worst organization in the world at blowing our own horns,” he laughed.