Austin Mayor Steve Adler has proclaimed Jan. 18 at Austin Downtown Founder Lions Club Day in recognition of the club’s 100th anniversary. Adler announced the proclamation at the club’s Jan. 9 Centennial Gala at The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, which kicked off a centennial year of activities.
In the proclamation, Adler notes the “great many improvements” the club has made in the “lives of all Austinites,” including:
* Opening of the Municipal Golf Course which became the first desegregated golf course in the South;
* Serving as “Knights of the Blind” by sponsoring and supporting many programs for the blind and visually impaired, such as Kidsight Vision Screening, the Lone Star Eye Bank and Leader Dogs for the Blind; and
* Providing scholarship for students attending the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
The club began Jan. 18, 1916, when 29 men came together in a "dingy, poorly lighted" meeting hall at 704 Congress, above Burt's Shoe Company, to sign a charter as The Austin Lions Club. A 30th charter member signed a few days later.
The Austin club actually pre-dates Lions Clubs International, which will celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2017. During 1916-17, Dr. William P. Woods, a surgeon of Evansville, Indiana, founded the International Association of Lions Clubs and organized about 30 clubs, including the Austin group. These clubs – including the Austin club – and several other organizations were invited to a meeting in Chicago on June 7, 1917, to consider the establishment of a single international organization of service clubs. Melvin Jones’ Chicago Business Circle elected to become a Lions Club, and three years later, the International Association of Lions Clubs reorganized as Lions Clubs International. The Austin club is the oldest continuously operating Lions Club in the world.
With a roster of 103, the club’s members include men and women from all walks of life, including judges; legislators; Austin Independent School District officials and board members; Travis County elected officials, former mayors of Austin; architects; certified public accountants; bank presidents; insurance executives; communications professionals; ministers; volunteers; veterans and others. Lions Clubs International is the largest service club organization in the world, with 1.4 million members in more than 47,000 clubs serving communities in more than 200 countries and geographical areas around the world.
With the motto, “Where There’s a Need, There’s a Lion,” service is the driving force for Austin Founder Lions and Lions all over the world. Austin Founder Lions serve in the areas of vision, the environment, youth and hunger.