MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Lions Clubs serve their communities every day, throughout the world.
There are nearly 50,000 clubs worldwide, but one of the first was born in Downtown Memphis and that club’s future has been up in the air for a while.
In 1917, Lions Clubs International formed to be the organization new know now. Before that, in December 1916, a Lions Club Charter was born in Downtown Memphis.
“There were four Lions Clubs that were chartered right at the very beginning. [The Memphis Downtown club] was one of the first four Lions Clubs chartered,” said Scott Shelhamer, Lions Club member.
As Lions Clubs grew across the world, it also grew in Shelby County.
At one point, a few dozen existed. However, a majority of those have closed. Now, less than a dozen clubs remain in the county.
About six months ago, Lions Club District Governor Glen Mullins found out the historic Memphis Downtown Lions Club was close to seeing the same fate.
“I got an email that this club was going to give up its charter, which I really didn't want to do. This club has been around since 1916 and is a founder's club. I didn't want to lose that history,” said Mullins.
The Lions Clubs are known for their community service, often times focused on improving sight and hearing for the low-income.
The Mid-South Lions Club also holds annual cataract-a-thon’s.
Each club has a certain number of zip codes where members will focus a lot of their service. The Memphis Downtown club has 11 city zip codes.
“Now those 11 zips codes, for the past five years they've only been doing eye surgeries and hearing aids because that's all they've been able to afford. They've stopped doing vision screenings, they've stopped doing eyeglasses,” said Shelhamer.
Mullins and Shelhamer are now taking it upon themselves to breathe new life into the club.
The two are switching their memberships from the Bartlett club to the Downtown club, and want to bring in a new kind of member.
“New members, new blood, new ideas. What seems to be the perception is it’s an old white guy club. That has been said a lot here today, that it’s an old white guy club. It can be. I would like to see that change too,” said Mullins.
They are looking for men and women of all backgrounds. You must pay dues to be a member of the club, but you don't have to live Downtown to join.
“We just have to find the people who have the heart to serve the Downtown community,” said Shelhamer.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Memphis Downtown Lions Club email Glen Mullins at email@example.com.