Since 1922 South Carolinians have been coming together to serve the Palmetto State through Lions Clubs, first in Columbia, Spartanburg, Orangeburg, Anderson, and Greenville, then in communities statewide. In 1925 their focus became vision and hearing services following Helen Keller’s challenge to be “Knights of the Blind” in the crusade against darkness at the International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio. For over a century Lions have continued to help the blind and visually impaired in South Carolina and advocate for them at a time when public perception and prejudices viewed them as incapable, but there was a need to do more.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of South Carolina’s first Lions Clubs, including three in the Upstate: Anderson, Greenville, and Spartanburg. The Anderson and Spartanburg Clubs have announced plans to celebrate the milestone with a commemorative event in their respective communities. The Spartanburg Lions Club will host Lions Club International President Douglas X. Alexander of Brooklyn, New York at the 1881 Event Hall on Saturday, May 14, 2022. One of South Carolina’s own Upstate members is presently serving on the International Board of Directors, Dr. Dianne J. Pitts of the Greenwood Lions Club. The Spartanburg Lions Club is also home to Past International Director Dr. Eugene Spiess, who is a retired college administrator and instructor.
Through the years South Carolina Lions have helped respond to countless natural disasters by securing funding from the Lions Clubs International Foundation, managed an annual International Youth Exchange with students from dozens of foreign countries, provided hundreds of affordable eye surgeries to low-income families through their state charity known as Lions Vision Services, built a new accessible playground for the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind, funded two floors of the expanded Storm Eye Institute at MUSC to conduct research on blindness, provided tens of thousands of free vision screenings to South Carolina students, and conduct fishing tournaments and camps for the blind across the state, just to name a few.
Today Lions Clubs serve the community through programs addressing diabetes, the environment, hunger, vision, and childhood cancer. There are more than 3,000 Lions Club members and 124 Clubs across the state, which are part of a global network of more than 1.4 million volunteers worldwide serving in over 200 countries and geographic areas. Visit lionsclubs.org to learn more and to find the local Lions Club in your community today!