Leos: Younger Lions on path of local volunteerism
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News February 16, 2013 4:26PM
The South Elgin Lions Club facility at 500 Fulton St. was filled with students from around the state this weekend, there to learn more about what peers are doing in their own communities. | Janelle Walker~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 18, 2013 7:11AM
SOUTH ELGIN — At age 44, Angie DeLeon of South Elgin says some might assume she is “too young” to be a Lions Club member.
But 18-year-olds Samantha Andersen and Gabby Mainard both plan to become members of the South Elgin club — right after they graduate from high school and age out of the Leo Club.
The two seniors were among 152 youths from all over Illinois who gathered at the South Elgin Lions Club, 500 Fulton St., for the fourth-ever statewide Leo Club convention.
Ron Fangusaro of the Bloomingdale Lions Club began organizing the statewide events to help give Leos from around the state a chance to meet each other and see what the other youth organizations are doing in their communities.
There are 18 such clubs around the state — many affiliated with local Lions Clubs and others affiliated with schools, Fangusaro said. Of those clubs, 13 sent delegates to South Elgin for the convention.
Leo Clubs are for youths 12 to 18. In South Elgin, the 15 members meet monthly to talk about what they want to do in the community, said DeLeon, one of the club’s co-leaders.
She began leading the club when her now-15-year-old son, and her now-12-year-old daughter, got involved.
They have attended the previous conventions, too, DeLeon said. It was at one of those events that they found out Jr. Leos can join at age 8 — the perfect time to get them involved in community volunteerism, she said. “We have quite a few Jr. Leos now,” DeLeon said.
“They are so anxious to help at 8 years old. You want to get them used to the idea of helping at a young age,” she said.
Mainard is a past president of the South Elgin club and has been in the club since she was 10 years old. She got involved because her older brother was a Leo and her mom is a Lions Club member, but also because of the club’s goals and charities.
“Our club raises awareness for the hearing and visually impaired — that is our speciality. There are so many people in need and so much you can do to help,” Mainard said.
Andersen got involved just four years ago, at Mainard’s suggestion. She is now president of the local club, too. “Our meetings are about the project that we want to do, and we vote on if we should do it,” Andersen said. “There is a lot of open discussion about what we want to do — instead of being told what we are going to do.”
Some of those projects have included an Easter egg hunt for South Elgin children, raising funds to send a child with visual or hearing impairment to summer camp, and providing labor and help with South Elgin Parks and Recreation department events.
They also help raise funds for and pack the local Lions Club’s Christmas food baskets. For the past several years, the Lions have put together 200 food baskets for area families in need, said Linda Scham, one of the local club members.
Every year or two, they also sort through eyeglasses donated to Lions Clubs around the state. Glasses with recyclable metals are sold for scrap, and the money is used to purchase more glasses for those in need. And plastic frames and lenses are sent for distribution around the world.
During Saturday’s convention, much of the young Leo’s time was given to hearing what the other clubs were doing. Andersen and Mainard said they hope to use that information to come up with new things the local club can do, too.
“We want to help people out,” Andersen said, “and this is the perfect place to do that.”