History & Gallery

A brief history of Salisbury Lions Club (SLC) on our 90th anniversary

Lion Bill Bicknell 2013 

Established in 1923  In 1917 Melvin Jones, an insurance agent in Chicago who founded Lions International, first shared his vision of a world in which neighbor helped neighbor. Just six years later, on May 23, 1923, a group of 25 community leaders joined together under the sponsorship of the Wilmington, DE Lions Club to charter the Salisbury Lions Club. In 2013, as we celebrate its 90th year, it has grown from the 25 charter members to over 80 members, while Lions Intl has grown to become the world’s largest service organization - about 46,000 clubs with over 1,350,000 members in 208 countries. Salisbury Lions Club has built an exemplary record of humanitarian aid and community service, which reaches far beyond Salisbury and the Eastern Shore. The club hosted the 1925 District Convention. The enthusiasm of the initial years soon waned, and the membership declined to only ten, who, in 1928, considered joining the Civitan Club. Three years later, in 1931, the club provided assistance to an almost totally blind youth, Carl Hastings. Dr. J. R. Bishop, a Lion, saved his sight.  This experience gave the members new vitality, attracted new members and set a course for aiding the sight impaired, which continues today.

BLIND ASSISTANCE  Many thousands of dollars have been contributed for eye examination, glasses and cataract removable procedures. The Medical Eye Bank of Maryland has been supported with annual donations for over 30 years. Transportation to Wilmer Eye Clinic has been provided for many. Glaucoma clinics have been conducted, with thousands tested. Purchase of a bus for the Md. Workshop for the Blind (Now BISM) was enabled by Lions Club contributions. Drives were conducted to solicit eye donations to the Maryland Eye Bank.  Titmus (Vision Testing) machines were donated to the Wicomico Board of Education, resulting in the testing of all students since c. 1970. Now Lions members screen students in most Wicomico schools with modern screeners. Hundreds have been tested, using the District Sight and Hearing Van including the most important Salisbury Eye Evaluation (SEE) study.

Many thousands of pairs of glasses, frames and lenses have been collected for the needy all over the world. Candy Sale Projects have been conducted for many years to benefit Wilmer Eye Clinic.

In 1980, an ocutone (used in eyesight restoration) was donated to Peninsula General Hospital ($13,290). In addition, over $20,000 has been donated to P.G.H. for equipment for eye work. Gifts have been made to the $4,000,000 endowment committed to the work of  Lions Research Center of Wilmer Eye Institute.

HEARING ASSISTANCE  In the latter half of its ninety-year history, the Lions Club has coupled assistance to the hearing-impaired with programs to aid the blind. Audiometers were donated to the Board of Education for hearing tests for all students since the early 1970’s. Thousands have been tested for hearing impairment through use of the MD 22 Sight & Hearing van. Contributions have been made to the Deaf Independent Living Association and the Md. School for the Deaf. Scores of hearing aids as well as several scholarships to the Camp for the Deaf, have been given to needy individuals.

YOUTH ACTIVITIES The youth of the area have long been a major interest. Athletics have been supported by sponsorship of the West Side Little League. Uniforms, equipment purchases, team financial support and coaching activities of members have helped the Salisbury Little League, Pony and Senior Leagues, girl’s softball, youth soccer and Rookie League basketball. Annual awards are made for sportsmanship to players of three high schools. The Holiday Basketball Festival benefited many area schools. Donations have been made to Special Olympics, Science Olympiad and Junior Achievement, and scholarships have been provided for training camp for outstanding athletes. Scholastic Achievement Awards (now $1,000 each) are presented annually to outstanding seniors at the three high schools. The James Bennett High Leo club has flourished with dedicated leadership from Salisbury Host members.

CIVIC AND HUMANITARIAN PROJECTS  Many other social concerns affecting the quality of life in our area have been addressed. Screening programs have been conducted for diabetes, a diabetic testing machine purchase and books on diabetes donated to the public library. Drug awareness has been fostered by donations to the Salisbury Substance Abuse Center, Wicomico County Narcotics Task Force and Parents Against Drugs, as well as by purchase of films for the Wicomico County Schools. The Blood Bank of the Eastern Shore was founded by the Salisbury Lions Club in 1961, with 3,244 members. It has grown to be a significant multi-state institution, providing a vitally needed medical service to many thousands of members.

Evidence of the contributions of the Salisbury Lions Club exist all over the Salisbury area. Three ambulances were donated to the fire department. Flag poles on the city plaza, electric scoreboards at unty Stadium and the Salvation Army ball field, a basketball floor at the Civic Center and a van for Lower Shore Sheltered Workshop were donated. Contributions have been made to the Salvation Army Capital Campaign, Wicomico Teen Center, Coastal Hospice, the Community Foundation, the Salisbury Zoo, the Joseph House and the Salisbury State University Scholarship Fund. Band uniforms were purchased for the first band formed at Wicomico High School and, later, for the James M. Bennett Junior High Band. Not only funds, but countless man-hours have been contributed to civic and humanitarian projects. Lions members have served as Salvation Army bell ringers, collectors of canned goods for the needy and fund raisers for the American Heart Association and other charities. Perhaps the greatest impact on the lives of area people has been made through many individual contributions to the needy.  Help has been given to fire and cancer victims. Back-to-school funds have been provided through the Wicomico Department of Social Services. Christmas baskets and turkeys have been donated. Many individuals, referred by Joseph House, Salvation Army, Coastal Hospice, nursing homes, churches and other community support organizations have received help.

FUND RAISING  To support these and other charities, many fund-raising projects have been conducted. A watercade was held at Wicomico Youth and Civic Center when it first opened, boxing matches were sponsored in the 1930’s and a house was built and raffled off in the 1950’s. Many tons of chicken have been fried and sold from the giant frying pan at countless Salisbury Festivals and DPI Chicken Festivals. Raffles of Blue Chip stocks and vacation tours have also been held for many years. Well over $1,000,000 has been raised for charitable and humanitarian purposes during the past 90 years. The present annual charity budget exceeds $32,000.

OUTREACH  The interests and contributions of the club have not been confined solely to the Salisbury area, as other Lions Clubs have been sponsored in Berlin-OceanCity, Cambridge, Crisfield, Delmar, Denton, Easton, Federalsburg, Fruitland, Hebron, Hurlock, Pocomoke City, Queenstown, Sharptown, Snow Hill and Vienna. Each year, Salisbury Club members make many visitations to other Lions Clubs. Substantial donations have been regularly made to LCI F which is engaged in worldwide humanitarian service. Many Salisbury Lions Club members have distinguished themselves in service to Lions International. The late Harold Loreman, Jr. and Dr. Lee Rademacher were International Directors. The late Dr. Seth H. Hurdle, the only Lion to be twice elected District Governor of MD 22B, was honored with a lifetime membership. The Salisbury Lions Club has an outstanding record of service to Lionism, which was acknowledged by the visit here in 1941 by Melvin Jones, founder of Lions International, and subsequently, by his widow. Nine District Governors and numerous Deputy District Governors and District Cabinet members have come from the Salisbury Club.

DEDICATED SERVICE  For many years, the club met weekly, year round, at dinner meetings. Now meetings are held on the 1st.,3rd and 5th Wednesdays from September to June. Activities are not all for fund raising and project volunteerism. Fun and fellowship are provided at the annual Oyster Roast, Crab Feast, Ladies’ Night, Boys and Girls Night, District Conventions, and the many informative programs and speakers. The Salisbury Lions Club continues as one of the largest in the area with a present membership of over 80 business and professional people, educators and salesmen. These Lions have clearly produced a positive impact on the quality of life in Salisbury and many other areas over the past 90 years. The lives of many members have been influenced by the opportunity for humanitarian service afforded by the Club. The exemplary heritage of the Salisbury Lions will provide future members the foundation for the volunteer service, which is so sorely needed in our more complex and demanding society.