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franklin county times

Civic club on the prowl for the community

By Staff
Kim West, Franklin County Times
RED BAY – Lions Club International is a worldwide organization known for its vision programs, and the Red Bay Lions Club has carried out that mission by providing free eyeglasses and other services to people in the community.
"We pay for and provide eyeglasses for people who can't afford them," said Tammy Underwood, the club's secretary and a past president. "We have a sight chairman, J.C. Weeks, who's a pharmacist with Redmont Pharmacy. Anyone who thinks they need eyeglasses can go to him and fill out an application, and he brings the application to us."
The club also provides international aid through members' mission work.
"We collect used eyeglasses for Lions Club members who go on mission trips, and they distribute them to people who need them," Underwood said. "Helen Keller extended a challenge to Lions Club to do something about eyesight, and that's how they got into the eyesight part."
Along with vision assistance, Lions Club International supports diabetes projects. Locally, the Red Bay Lions Club provides money for a local child to attend a special camp for kids with diabetes.
"There's a camp for kids who are diagnosed with diabetes, and the kids learn how to deal with being diabetic and parents can go, too," Underwood said. "This year we sponsored a kid to go to the camp."
Through fundraising efforts, the club also provides scholarships to students and sponsors junior membership clubs known as Leo Clubs at two local high schools.
"We have two Leo Clubs, one at Vina and one at Red Bay," Underwood said. "We give the G.A. Mills Memorial $1,000 scholarship to one student in memory of a teacher and coach who was a Lions Club member. The award is based on community service and the type of person Mills was. And we also give out to two $500 Lions Club scholarships, one at Red Bay and one at Vina. We do a G.A. Mills Pancake Breakfast in the spring to raise money for the scholarships."
The Christmas holidays can be difficult for low-income families, but the club helps provides them with clothes and food with the help of several other organizations, churches and businesses.
"At Christmas we have a big drive that goes for clothing for children and food for families in Vina and Red Bay," Underwood said. "We clothe about 200 kids, and they each get two pairs of jeans, two shirts, underwear, T-shirts, socks, coat and shoes. We get all the sizes we need and go to Martin's, who gives us really good deals on clothes. We use the club's trailer and take the boys' clothes to First Methodist Church and the girls' clothes to the Red Bay Church of Christ. Then we separate by size and type of clothes, and the Red Bay Leo and Beta Club comes and helps us with the kids.
"For the food, we get a couple of carts from Big Star Grocery and Underwood True Value, and the Junior Leadership class bags and separates the groceries at the Red Bay Fire Department."
The club has been busy planning activities for the fall, including fundraising at Founders Day, assisting the Red Bay police with drug awareness and participating in the Old Town Village.
"We'll sell mops and brooms at Founder's Day, and we're talking with the police department with how the Lions Club can become involved with the drug awareness day at the beginning of school year," Underwood said. "This year we're going to be one of the nonprofit organizations that sponsor the Old Town Village. We're going to sponsor one of the replicas of the old stores and set up a display in front of it."
The Red Bay Lions Club meets at the Billy Crutchfield Center at 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month during most of the year, and on the second Tuesday during the summer. Lions Club members pay an annual dues, and membership is based on sponsorship.
"A member needs to sponsor you, and then the club votes on your membership," Underwood said. "Actually, I was the first woman that joined, and we've had two others since. It wasn't that they excluded women, but they just never thought to invite one, and then David Markham asked me to join. Some Lions say it's the only club you pay to belong to that raises money to give away."