Lions Club International is the world’s largest service club organization with 1.35 million members in more than 46,000 clubs worldwide.
Founded in 1917, the Lions are best known for fighting blindness, but the club also performs volunteer work in the community, from caring for the environment, feeding the hungry and aiding seniors and the disabled.
In Cambridge, the Lions Club began in 1934.
“It was one of the first Lions Clubs in New York State and was chartered by the Lions Club in Albany,” said James Griffith, treasurer of the Cambridge club and past district governor for District 20-Y2.
“In regard to international service organizations like Kiwanis and Rotary, the Lions is the only such organization in Cambridge,” he said.
The Lions in Cambridge have always raised money and carried out awareness activities. “In the late 1950s through the ’70s, we were very involved in eye screenings at the school, but we also did a lot of fundraising to give back to organizations in the community,” said Griffith.
Membership in the club waned during the early 2000s, but began moving up again when the club began renewing its focus on service to the community.
Currently the club’s 24 members organize activities such as roadside clean-ups, working with the Loaves and Fishes food pantry and the Capital District food bank in Latham and more.
For the past eight years, the club has run “Eternal Illumination” in Cambridge during the holiday season. Individuals can purchase a memorial tree that is lit from the first week of December through New Year’s. “We’ve grown from lighting eight trees to 30 this past year, and each tree is tagged with the name of a loved one,” said Griffith.
At the annual Cambridge Valley Balloon Festival in June, the Lions run the very successful car show. “We created the event to help bring people into town during the festival. We began with 18 cars, and this year are hoping to show 100,” said Griffith. Because the show has been such a success, the Lions are relocating the show from Broad Street in front of the former Cambridge Hotel to the St. Patrick’s church parking lot on Park Street.
The club organizes a summer concert series in Memorial Park each July. This year the series begins July 11 and runs through Aug. 1.
Another Lions annual fundraiser is a winter tribute concert in partnership with the Elks Club in Greenwich. This year’s concert in February was a Patsy Cline tribute. Previous concerts have been tributes to Elvis and Johnny Cash.
And the club sponsors an annual senior scholarship in honor of Jim Leone, a beloved teacher and principal at Cambridge Elementary School for 36 years.
The scholarship is given to one female and one male high school recipient each year. “We recognize high school seniors who show the true meaning of giving back to the community and represent the Lions’ motto of service,” said Griffith.
The Lions meet twice monthly at 6:30 p.m. Business meetings are on the first Wednesday of the month at the O’Hearn building on West Main Street in the village. Every third Wednesday, the Lions have dinner and a meeting at the Cambridge assisted living facility, the former Cambridge Hotel, where the club has been meeting since 1934.
“Membership is open to all,” said Griffith. “We invite anyone interested in giving back to the community to join us.”
For more information on the Lions, visit the club’s Facebook page or email Griffith at email@example.com.