On Nov. 21, the Fenwick Island Lions Club celebrated its 25th anniversary of service to the community. During their celebratory luncheon, Past President Bruce Schoonover gave a presentation on the history of the Fenwick Island chapter.
It’s just a great organization, and we think we do some pretty incredible work,” said Schoonover of the Lions.
He noted that the Past District Gov. L. Thomas Shockley suggested the chapter be formed due to the Bethany-Fenwick area being “one of the fastest-growing areas in the state.”
Headed by Noble Simpson, the group had 38 charter members, six of whom are still members of the club. Today, the club has about 77 members.
“As I have combed through the club’s archives and picked its members collective brains,” said Schoonover, “I have been both proud and impressed with the kindness and generosity that is so evident in the record.
“In examining our records, I was particularly struck by the fact that our boards over the past 25 years have consistently reached outside our local community borders to generously assist organizations, in their larger collective effort to make this world a better place to live in, whether it be in Delaware, our nation or the world.”
Over the years, the Lions have been strong proponents of vision programs — including vision screenings, collecting glasses and efforts to help prevent blindness.
For 10 years, the Lions group has been actively participating in a pre-school vision screening program, where young children are screened for various eye conditions, including amblyopia, a condition in which the eyes send signals of different strengths to the brain, impairing one’s vision.
Through the screening provided by the Lions, with a digital screening device that measures nine separate readings on each eye, the children’s test results are available immediately.
Schoonover said that, as of the end of October, more than 500 children had been screened at 10 area schools. He said that, if a child fails the eye exam, they are sent home with a letter that day to their parents, recommending a follow-up visit to an eye doctor.
“And if the parents can’t afford glasses, we’ll pay for them,” he added. “We are all very proud of this program and clearly, in my mind, this is one of the premier programs we have undertaken as a club.”
Another of the group’s more visible efforts for vision causes is its hosting of the “Sight Night”-themed Halloween parade in Selbyville in recent years. Parade-goers are asked to bring their old pairs of eyeglasses to the parade, and the donated glasses are collected along the parade route, then shipped off to developing nations, where they are given to those who need glasses.
The Lions group has also been actively involved in the Meals on Wheels program within the state. Schoonover said that approximately 20 Lions, along with their spouses and friends, have been taking meals to the homebound five days a week, 52 weeks each year, for the past 25 years.
“Not only are we bringing the nutritional benefits to them, but we’re bringing them interaction, as well,” said Schoonover. “To me it’s such a simple thing, but it’s so meaningful to the elderly who are homebound.”
The Lions have also been trying to reach out to the younger generations, to promote community volunteerism and activism. In 2003, they became sponsors of the Indian River High School LEO Club, with its name standing for leadership, experience and opportunity.
“Last year, a total of 66 students devoted over 400 hours to serving others through a total of 13 separate projects,” said Schoonover, adding that 68 new LEO members will be sworn in later this month.
Over the last 20 years, the Lions have also awarded more than $125,000 in scholarships to local high-school students.
The Lions are also actively involved in recycling aluminum cans, and donating to other charitable organizations, including Special Olympics, the Eye Bank of Delaware Valley, and Leader Dogs for the Blind, which has provided one of the group’s members with four leader dogs since 1973.