By Zackary Kephart
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
For Niagara University students interested in helping others, the college's NU Lions Club is the perfect outlet.
Niagara University is a place that seeks to inspire its students, faculty and staff to serve all members of society, especially those most in need. The university's Lions Club captures that spirit with its mission, which is to empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace, and promote international understanding.
The NU Lions Club was approved by Niagara's Office of Campus Activities in November 2015 as a new club on campus. Thus far, the sight of younger members wishing to adopt the Lions spirit is excellent considering The Lions Club International is an organization comprised of older members.
In fact, it was a student who inspired the club's birth. Lions Club adviser Sharon Green said former Treasurer Neil Luckman, a student of Green's, asked her during the end of his junior year if he could start a Lions Club with other students. Luckman's grandparents are very involved with the Lions Club in Niagara County and New York state, so, in that sense, a strong familial bond passed down to Luckman inspired his need to serve.
Officially forming the club was simply a matter of following a set of guidelines from Niagara's Office of Campus Activities. The Lions Club took this a step further during a banquet at The Brickyard Pub & B.B.Q. when it officially received its charter in April 2017.
Students who join a club at NU have to complete a minimum of five hours of community service every semester, so there's all the more incentive to join a club steeped in service. NU Lions Club Treasurer Joy O'Brien said there are even opportunities for students in other clubs to gain service hours if they want to participate in a Lions Club project.
O'Brien found out about the NU Lions Club through signs posted around campus. After serving as a member, she advanced to become the club's treasurer. She said she wanted to bring her bright, vibrant ideas to the club. According to her, it's much easier to meet the club's service requirement than in a different club, especially when members complete service out of desire, rather than necessity.
Both Green and O'Brien said a big goal for the club is to have a project the group can consistently offer every year.
When one thinks of the Lions Club, one thinks of an organization that has branded something to accomplish. The NU Lions Club has started to do this with its vision screening activity. Considering the traditional Lions Club is known for collecting used eyeglasses and giving them to people in need, the vision connection for the NU Lions Club is powerful. Members of the club were trained to do vision screening in November and completed the first screening on March 12. O'Brien said it's the club's first step toward reaching that goal of consistently completing projects every year.
When asked about a favorite project the students have taken part in, O'Brien and club member Khin Myat expressed a love for their involvement with Carolyn's House, a women's shelter located at 542 6th St., Niagara Falls. When the students volunteered there last November, they signed up to complete a few hours of service, which included activities such as donating products, cleaning the common room of the facility and raking leaves.
O'Brien said, "I remember when we were bagging up leaves, this woman asked if we were raking for her and the others."
O'Brien said she replied, "Yes." When the woman thanked her for the deed, O'Brien said she was "touched, especially considering how small of a deed it seemed for us."
For Myat, an international student from Burma, she said the project was hard work; however, being exposed to something she's never experienced before was rewarding.
These projects were rewarding experiences rather than tough challenges for the students. In fact, that's how the club members described other projects completed by the club, as well.
Myat said she was particularly fond of the club's involvement with the vision screening testing at the Grand Island Memorial Library this past February. The screenings were for children who had not been checked in the recent Lions screenings in the Grand Island public and parochial schools or at three of the Island's childcare facilities.
For Myat, the most rewarding experience was providing children with the testing they needed.
"I love kids, and they were just wonderful. We gave them stickers afterwards and they were ecstatic," Myat said.
As to what's next for the club, Green, O'Brien and Myat said they were excited about their upcoming activities, including an event in conjunction with the College of Education's "Books, Balls, and Blocks," which includes literacy events for children. This will take place on April 7 at the Niagara Falls Public Library. More information on this event can be found HERE.
NU students who are looking to join the club have several options. This semester, the NU Lions Club meets at 8 p.m. Mondays in the Gallagher Center, at a table near Tim Hortons. Remaining meeting dates are April 9 and 23. Students can also email Green at [email protected]
to gain more information.
Organizations looking to utilize the NU Lions Club's talent for service may also contact the club via Green.
The Lions Club has several upcoming events, including a fundraiser at Denny's Restaurant in Niagara Falls from 4-9 p.m. April 11, as well as a day of service with Habitat for Humanity on April 14.