By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The Lions Club International has a simple motto, “We serve.” With 1.4 million members in 210 countries, the service club carries that motto out all over the globe.
A prime focus for Lions is to ensure access to glasses for those that do not have the resources to get their vision checked and corrected. The Lions Club of Marshfield and members from other Wisconsin clubs traveled to Granada, Nicaragua, in February of this year to provide eye exams and glasses to thousands of people of all ages.
The group has traveled to Nicaragua each of the last five years and has given out over 20,000 pairs of glasses in that span.
“You feel you’re making a difference in people’s lives,” said Marshfield Lions Club member and past president Steve McCabe. “Most of these people have never had glasses before.”
Marshfield Lions President Dr. Thomas Stram said that in a past trip — he did not travel this year — his wife fit a woman with glasses, and the woman began to cry. His wife thought she had done something wrong and grabbed an interpreter to understand the woman.
“I can finally see my grandchildren,” the woman said. She was crying tears of joy, not despair.
McCabe added that some of the women the Lions helped during their mission were seamstresses, where vision is critical to excelling in their work. To be fair, there are not many professions in which vision is not critical, which is why the Lions are able to affect so many people in such a fundamentally important way.
“There’s an old saying, ‘When you’re young, you learn; when you’re middle-age, you earn; and when you’re retired, you return,’” McCabe said. “I feel that we need to return back to society because we are such lucky people living here in (the) United States.”
The Lions go to Nicaragua to serve, but they also take away a valuable personal experience.
“The interesting part of it was when you submerge yourself in the culture like we did, you understand the country much better,” said Lions member Dr. Lance Lubach.
Lubach’s wife Cheryl, who is not a Lions member, also made the trip and said she felt the volunteer experience was meaningful because of how in need the people of Granada are.
“The poverty is very prevalent (in Granada),” Cheryl said.
Back in Wisconsin, the Lions host a free camp in Rosholt for individuals with vision or hearing impairments or cognitive disabilities. The local chapter of the Lions Club, which was started in 1931, also helps individuals who may have difficulty affording glasses.
Eyeglasses that would otherwise be disposed of can be dropped off at the Marshfield Public Library, most banks in town, and eye care offices, and the Lions will allocate them to people in need.
The Lions Club of Marshfield meets the first and third Tuesday of every month at China Chef in Marshfield at 6 p.m. The local chapter has about 25 members and is encouraging new people to join. For more information or to inquire about joining the Marshfield Lions Club, email Thomas Stram at firstname.lastname@example.org or Steve McCabe at email@example.com.