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Updated: 07/23/2014 08:00:07AM

Group thinks Lions

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According to Carl Harrell, the effort to re-establish the Lions Club in Bartow appears to have found an enthusiastic response from The Greater Bartow Chamber of Commerce, as well as from the Fire Department and others.

Harrell, along with Judy Galm and Gary Nieskes, were in Bartow on Monday, July 21, canvassing a number of business, civic and government people and getting their feedback.

“Every place we’ve gone, there’s been a connection, either a father or mother or another relative belonging to the Lions Club,” said Galm.

The three of them found these comments to be an encouraging sign, and were optimistic they will bring the Lions Club back to Bartow, as they have done elsewhere.

“We never have a problem establishing a new Lions Club,” said Harrell, who extended an open invitation. “We’re asking all community leaders to step up and come to our first meeting.”

That meeting will take place at noon next Wednesday, July 30, at the Perkins Restaurant and Bakery, 150 E. Van Fleet Drive.

The three said that part of the reason they are going to re-establish the Lions Club is because the need is there. Around the world, the mission of the Lions Club has been vision.

“I get requests from people from Bartow for vision help,” said Nieskes, who is with a chapter in Englewood. “Several used to use the Lions Club (in Bartow).” (Galm is a Lions Club member from Sebring, with Harrell at Welacka.)

The three said they had not yet reached out to the remaining members of the Lions Club that used to exist in Bartow, but that was something they planned to do. However, they said their focus lay elsewhere rather than reaching out to members of the older club.

“Our focus in going to be on new members,” said Galms, but definitely not limited to any particular demographic. “We’re hoping to get a nice mix of younger and older people.”

Fred Egli, who belonged to the previous Lions Club from 1985-2005 and served as its president more than once, wished Harrell, Galm and Nieskes the best. He cited them for their focus on appealing to younger generations. It was that lack of success, he said, that contributed to the demise of the original club.

“That’s why the organization folded,” said Egli. “They were too old to do any projects.” Egli added that another contributing factor was economics. “Back in the old days, when companies had money, they would pay the dues.”

That dried up as money grew tight. Egli estimated that while he was a Lion that at its height membership was approximately 120, with 50-80 who actively attended meetings. He said that at age 78, he was too tired to consider joining if a new club is established.

If a new Lions Club is established in Bartow, it might not necessarily lead to a revival of the Lioness Club, said one-time Lioness Frances Williams, who emphasized she spoke only for herself. Like many of those who belonged to the Lions Club before it disbanded, the majority of the women were now too old, and others had passed away, she said.

There would also be the matter of keeping its independence. When the Lioness Club began, it was because the Lions Club was not integrated by gender. After the Bartow Lions folded, the Lioness Club could have been sponsored by either the Lakeland or the Lake Wales clubs.

“That would have meant being absorbed by those clubs,” said Williams. “We didn’t want that. We wanted to remain independent and for women.”

Like Egli, although she expressed no desire to join or be part of an effort to re-establish the Lioness Club, she wished the best for the new venture.

Want to attend?

The organizational and informational meeting will take place at noon, Wednesday, July 30, at the Perkins Restaurant and Bakery, 150 E. Van Fleet Drive. If established, the group will meet twice a month.

Dues will be $7 per month but does not include a $30 one-time entrance fee. Dues may be made semi-annually ($40) or annually ($80).

To learn more, contact Judy Galm at 1-863-655-2973, or email:

About the Lions Club

Carl Harrell said the organization is the largest in the world. It was chartered in 1917 and has 1.35 million members in 209 countries.

While its main mission is vision, which is not limited only to getting people measured and fitted for eyeglasses, or surgery. Other aspects include training and providing guide dogs, not just for people who have vision issues, but also hearing dogs for people deaf or hard-of-hearing. It also has two eye banks in Florida, in Miami and Tampa. The one in Tampa does more than any other eye bank in North America. There is also a diabetes screening program, as the condition also affects vision.

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