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Standing in the Spotlight: The Hagerstown Lioness Club

by Jennifer LB Leese

Sight conservation has been the leading mission of Lionism since 1924. During the 1925 Lions International Convention, Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become “Knights of the Blind in the Crusade against Blindness.” Keller was both blind and deaf and when asked if she could imagine anything worse than to be blind, she replied, “To have perfect eyesight and no vision would be much worse!” Wanting to support their community, the Lions Club accepted Keller’s challenge and began several creative methods such as arranging outdoor tournaments, chili cook offs, and bingo nights.
Because poverty, unemployment, and mental illness exist within our community today, area Lions and Lionesses use creative methods, in conjunction with the human services system, to aid the tribulations our society faces.
The Hagerstown Lioness Club, chartered in March of 1978, is the largest Lioness Club in Maryland. They currently have 81 active members. The Club provides services to the local community and the world through Lions Clubs International. The Club’s members work hard to raise funds annually for vision screening for students in grades K, 1, 3, 5, and 8 in the Washington County public schools as well as for collecting and recycling hearing aids. Lionesses provide award scholarships to local public high school graduates so they can attend the Hagerstown Community College. The Club also participates in diabetes awareness programs that focus on detection, education, and treatment of diabetes and eye diseases; conducts monthly recreational activities, and provides birthday gifts to Ravenwood Nursing Home. Keeping busy throughout the year, they assist other regional organizations by volunteering for Salvation Army, The Red Cross, and Habitat for Humanity, Leader Dog School for the Blind, and Holly Place in Washington County.
The Hagerstown Lionesses conduct bake sales, as well as serving dinners to several different organizations. However, they cannot do it alone. If the community did not support the Lioness Club by attending their money-raising activities, then they wouldn’t be able to help those in need.
In 1973 with the goal to help others, Elaine Shank, fashion show co-chair, mentioned to her husband about putting on a fashion show to raise money for the cure of blindness. At the time, Mr. Shank, District 22-W Lions Sight Chairman and member of the Hagerstown Lions Club helped birth the concept. When the Hagerstown Lioness Club began in 1978, club members continued with the fashion show, donating the proceeds to the Medical Eye Bank of Maryland, who in return, has assisted with the Club’s sight conservation programs such as funding vision screening and/or providing glasses for Hagerstown children in need.
Based in Baltimore, the Medical Eye Bank of Maryland, established in 1962, collects, handles, and supplies donated eye tissue through Maryland’s hospitals, hospices, funeral homes, and from the Medical Examiner’s office, for corneal transplant surgery, and researches the cause and cures of human blindness. The Bank’s mission is to reduce corneal blindness, which afflicts more than 10 million people-many younger than 30—worldwide. Because of donor recovery programs such as this one, Maryland patients waiting to receive transplants have reduced considerably. Today there are 33 U.S. locations in the states and the District of Columbia. An individual can give someone “the gift of sight” by completing a donor’s card prior to time of death or may become a corneal recipient.
Now into their 18th year of producing fashion shows, the Hagerstown Lioness Club, with Ingram’s Men’s Shop and Lena’s of Hagerstown, kicks off the Fabulous “Gift of Sight” Fashion Show on Sunday, November 14 at 2 p.m. at the Hagerstown Elks Lodge on Robinwood Drive in Hagerstown. Club members, including models from Lena’s, will wear the ladies’ fashion and “men’s fashions will be modeled by husbands’ of our members (some being Lions).”
“Ingram’s Men’s Shop has provided the men’s wear since 1993. This is the second year that Lena’s has participated in our Fashion Show, with their ladies’ fashions. Through the years, the club has had fashions from other local shops and retail stores,” says Linda Vestal, Hagerstown Lioness Club secretary and Fashion Show co-chair.
Guests of the “Eye for Fashion” show can look forward to having a wonderful time as they glance over men’s and women’s newest fashions, winning marvelous door prizes, and enjoying delicious food and drink during the intermission. “The Club hopes to raise over $1000 for the Medical Eye Bank of Maryland,” says Vestal. “Guests can purchase clothing at Lena’s or Ingram’s, but not at the show.”
Tickets to the show are $7.00 and are available in advance at Lena’s, Ingram’s or from any Hagerstown Lioness, or at the door on the day of the show. For more fashion show information, contact Lioness Sukey Rankin, at 301-790-2831. If you’re interested in joining the Hagerstown Lioness Club, contact Ms. Rankin at the number above or attend one of their monthly meetings, held on the first Thursday of each month at 6:30 pm at the Sheraton’s Four Points in Hagerstown.

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