History of Lions
In 1917, Melvin Jones, a 38-year-old Chicago business leader, told members of his local business club they should reach beyond business issues and address the betterment of their communities and the world. Jones’ group, the Business Circle of Chicago, agreed.
After contacting similar groups around the United States, an organisational meeting was held on June 7, 1917, in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The new group took the name of one of the invited groups, the ‘Association of Lions Clubs,’ and a national convention was held in Dallas, Texas, USA in October of that year. A constitution, by-laws, objectives and a code of ethics were approved. And the rest is history.
Our 100th anniversary in 2017 is a reason to look back on our long and proud tradition of service and the numerous achievements of our association and Lions around the world.
LCI Historical Highlights
1917: Melvin Jones and fellow Chicago businessmen found Lions Clubs to improve the community.
1920: Lions Clubs become international by chartering a club in Windsor, Canada.
1930: Lion George Bonham paints a cane white with a wide red band to aid the visually impaired after he witnesses a blind man having trouble crossing the street.
1931: Lions head south and establish a club in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
The first international convention outside of the U.S. is held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
1935: Local Lions donate a Talking Book machine to the Milwaukee Public Library, allowing the blind to hear books.
1939: Members of the Detroit Uptown Lions Club turn an old Michigan farmhouse into a school to train guide dogs for the visually impaired, helping to popularise guide dogs worldwide.
1944: The world’s first eye bank is created in New York City. Today, most eye banks are Lions-sponsored.
1945: Lions assist in drafting the United Nations Charter, starting a lasting bond with the U.N.
1947: In October, Lions celebrate the 30th anniversary of the association at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. It had become the world’s largest service club organisation at the time with 324,690 members in 19 nations.
Lions are given consultant status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council.
1948: Only three years after World War II, Europe sees its first Lions club in Stockholm, Sweden. Geneva, Switzerland, follows suit just days later.
1954: After an international contest among Lions, an official motto is chosen: ‘We Serve.’
1956: The Detroit Lions Club gives 6-year-old Stevie Wonder a Christmas gift – a drum set.
1957: Lions launch youth programs, including the very successful Leo Clubs.
1968: The Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) is established. Since its founding, LCIF has given more than US$826 million in grants to support the humanitarian work of Lions.
1972: LCIF sends out its first grant – US$5,000 to assist victims of flooding in South Dakota.
1973: In February, the association welcomes its one millionth member.
1977: Lion Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer from Georgia, becomes president of the United States of America.
1985: LCIF awards its first Major Catastrophe Grant of US$50,000 for earthquake relief in Mexico.
1986: Mother Teresa accepts the Lions Humanitarian Award.
1987: The association amends its bylaws and invites women to become members. Women are now the fastest growing segment of new members.
1990: SightFirst is launched, eventually raising more than $415 million dollars to help eradicate major causes of blindness.
1995: LCIF partners with The Carter Center, led by former US president and Lion Jimmy Carter, to combat river blindness in Africa and Latin America.
1999: Nilofer Bakhtiar of Pakistan is elected as the first female international director of the association.
2002: Lions charter two clubs in China, the nation’s first voluntary membership group since the 1950s.
2003: Through SightFirst, Lions and The Carter Center record their 50 millionth river blindness treatment.
2004: Lions mobilize more than US$15 million for South Asia tsunami relief following the disaster.
2007: The Financial Times ranks LCIF as best non-governmental organization worldwide to partner with.
2010: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation contributes US$5 million to the One Shot: One Life campaign, and Lions raise more than US$10 million to support measles efforts over the next two years.
2011: LCIF awards its 10,000th grant – bringing the total amount awarded to US$708 million.
Lions help administer 148 millionth dose of Mectizan to treat river blindness.
Following the Japan earthquake and tsunami, Lions mobilize over US$21 million for relief efforts.
2013: LCIF partners with the GAVI Alliance to protect millions of children from measles and rubella. LCIF commits US$30 million for immunisations, matched by US$30 million from UK Government and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, bringing the total to US$60 million.
Colombia eliminates river blindness with the support of Lions and The Carter Center partnership.
2014: Lions launch the Centennial Service Challenge, a global initiative to serve 100 million people around the world.
2017: Lions celebrate their 100th anniversary and first century of service!