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Lions set sights on next 50 years
Members celebrate club milestone
2Lions
Allan Hanes jokes with fellow Lions Club members. - photo by Autumn McBride

On the Net
To learn more about the Forsyth County Lions Club, go online at www.forsythcountylions.org. The club meets the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in Golden Corral on Market Place Boulevard.

The Forsyth County Lions Club recently celebrated 50 years of serving the community.

The civic organization was founded on April 14, 1961, with 23 members, said Jerry Dupree, a current board member. Today, the group has about 40 members.

While none of the 23 original members still participate, there are some Lions who’ve been around a while.

Joel Poss said he “didn’t even remember” how long he had been a member, but thought it was about 35 years.

“It’s great [to be celebrating 50 years],” Poss said. “I have lots of fond memories.”

The local group is part of the international Lions Club, which according to its Web site is the world’s largest civic organization with more than 45,000 clubs and 1.35 million members.

Ron Bennetti, the local Lions district governor, attended the club's celebration Saturday night, calling the milestone “a big accomplishment.”

“A lot of clubs break up in a lot less time than 50 years,” he said.

A member of the Dawsonville Lions Club, Bennetti said he feels like he has a “second home” with the Forsyth group.

“It’s a neat club. I have a lot of good friends here,” he said.

Tony DiCarlo said the friends are what make the club special.

“The camaraderie in this club is outstanding,” said DiCarlo, who has been a local member for the past eight years and was previously a Lion in Florida and New York.

He said many members in other clubs were required to join because of their businesses.

“It was hard to figure out if they were doing things because of their business or because they really wanted to contribute,” DiCarlo said.

That’s not the case with the Forsyth group.

“This club is so dedicated," he said. "Everybody goes above and beyond. They seek out people in need and always step up.”

Forsyth club president Tom Curran said some of the annual activities in which Lions participate include selling food at the Cumming Country Fair & Festival and giving out ear plugs during the city’s July Fourth steam engine parade.

Diane O’Shields, who became the club’s first female member about 13 years ago, noted that local Lions also began the county’s Miracle League program, which provides athletic opportunities for special needs students and adults.

O’Shields said the primary focus of Lions is sight, therefore much of the group’s fundraising efforts go to helping people with eyeglasses or surgeries.

This Saturday, the group will hold its annual White Cane Day, a fundraiser for the Georgia Lion’s Lighthouse, which provides glasses, exams and hearing aids for people in need.

Dupree said the event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Walmart on Market Place Boulevard.

Over the years, the club has also helped a variety of area nonprofits.

Dupree said they include: Family Haven domestic violence shelter; Abba House; the Place of Forsyth County; the Forsyth County Senior Center; and local schools.

The club has held a variety of fundraisers, including pancake breakfasts and apple sales, as well as selling concessions at youth sports tournaments and the former Lanier Land Music Park.

Dupree said club members exemplify the group’s motto of “we serve.”

He said more than 4,000 people have received eye exams and glasses since the chapter began.

In addition, some 175 local residents have been referred to the Georgia Lighthouse for services.

The club members have collected more than 14,500 pairs of used eye glasses, hearing aids and cell phones for those in need.

“Everyone in this club takes pride in giving 100 percent of their effort to needy citizens,” DiCarlo said. “It’s awesome.”