Debra Weaverling, current council chair for the state of Kansas Lions, knew as she was advancing through leadership roles at the club, district and state level that the sky was the limit since Lions provide all members with extraordinary opportunities for leadership development, training and application. She now is running for international director (ID).

By RIMSIE McCONIGA
rmcconiga@leavenworthtimes.com

Debra Weaverling, current council chair for the state of Kansas Lions, knew as she was advancing through leadership roles at the club, district and state level that the sky was the limit since Lions provide all members with extraordinary opportunities for leadership development, training and application. She now is running for international director (ID).


“I recognized that I can positively affect the future of Lions at the international level,” said Debra. “My experience and passion to continue to serve is the reason I’m running. I want to give back to the U.S. and the world.”
There are currently 34 IDs serving Lions Clubs International (LCI) and 11 are from the U.S. and territories.


The IDs help Lions’ members chart the course for the club’s second century of helping their communities and people around the world.
Debra says the chief responsibility of the international directors is to be the ambassador for the sitting Lions Clubs International president and promote Lionism and commitment of LCI to Lions across the world.
“In practical terms that translates into three major areas: committee work, LCI participation and international ambassador,” she said.


Lions Club is the largest humanitarian and service organization in the world and has 1.4 million members in 200 countries. This much-respected club was established in 1917 in Chicago for the betterment of members’ communities and the world. Chicago businessman Melvin Jones initiated a meeting with business clubs from across the country and the Association of Lions Clubs was formed. It became international in 1920.


There are more than 200 members in the Leavenworth Lions Club. It is the largest in Kansas. It is in the top 20 Lions Clubs in the U.S. Their meetings are every Thursday at noon at the Riverfront Community Center.
The LIONS acronym stands for Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nations’ Safety. The Lions’ motto is “We Serve.”


And serve they do. Local Lions Club programs include sight conservation, hearing and speech conservation,  diabetes awareness, youth outreach, international relations, environmental issues and many other programs. Serving as a united force for good and focusing on projects to help people around the world are so important to the club that discussion of politics and religion is forbidden.


For Debra, her 21 years of service to the Lions has made her eager to serve on the international stage. It has been a journey that she has savored.
To be a candidate, a member must be a member in good standing and have served as district governor. “Successful IDs are proven leaders who are diligent preparers with sound judgment who can inspire and motivate others to serve,” says Debra.


Candidates for international director must first receive the endorsement of their club and compete for election at the district and state level. If endorsed at these levels, then Lions Clubs International certifies the endorsed candidate. The selected candidate then runs for election at the upcoming Lions Clubs International Convention. Then the elected international directors serve a two-year term with travel commitments as extensive as 32 weekends each year.
As Debra gets ready to attend the 102nd annual Lions Clubs International Convention in Milan, Italy in July where the IDs will be elected, she is not only excited about the outcome, it also has given her the opportunity to look back at the history of the organization.


“At the 1925 Lions Clubs International Convention, Helen Keller challenged Lions to become the ‘Knights of the Blind’ in the crusade against darkness,” says Debra. “This began a century-long mission impacting hundreds of millions of lives through vision-related, charitable work. As LCI moves into our second century of service and humanitarian work, we are committed to taking positive action to directly impact our communities and the world through the power of service and action.


“LCI enables global causes for hunger, vision, diabetes, childhood cancer and the environment. At the club level in their own communities each club determines how to enact these causes and other causes they support.”
The Leavenworth Lions Club funds scholarships for Leavenworth High School students, conducts vision screening in the elementary schools and helps fund vision costs for those in need, to name just a few of their causes.
Debra initially joined the Leavenworth Lions Club in 1998 to better serve her community.


“I became a Lion in my heart while participating in youth vision screenings in our community. To see the impact we can have on a child’s life by detecting vision problems at an early age is a rewarding experience,” she said. “In Kansas we find about 10 percent of early grade-school children who have vision issues that have not yet been detected. Think of the impact on the child’s ability to learn. Our cooperative effort with the schools and the school nurses is inspiring. Our partnership each year enables Lion members of my club the opportunity to serve by volunteering.”


As Debra excitedly awaits the Lions Clubs International Convention in Milan and the vote for new international directors, she looks to the successful years of Gudrun Yngvadottir, a Lions Club member in Iceland who became the first woman international president in the club’s history in 2018 – an inspiration for Debra and a reminder that anything’s possible when people work side by side.
“To quote Lions Clubs International’s founder, Melvin Jones, ‘You can’t get very far until you start doing something for somebody else,’” says Debra. “This is the biggest personal lesson that Lions has reinforced in my heart. Service clubs of all types nationwide need the next generations of young Americans to get involved and serve others at the community level. Lions Club is one of the great options to do just that.”