Lions International president visits Seal Beach

Pictured, from left, are Seal Beach Lions Treasurer Scott Newton, International President Douglas Alexander and Seal Beach Lion President Stan Sarkauskas. Photo by Ted Apodaca

The Seal Beach Lions Club hosted a luncheon on Dec. 29 that featured a visit from the Lions Club International President Douglas Alexander of New York. Alexander has been a member of Lions since 1984, as a member of the Brooklyn Bedford Stuyvesant Lions Club.

Alexander has held many positions within the organization, through his club, region, district and zone. His awards include the Robert J. Uplinger Service Award, several District Governor Appreciation Awards, and the Multiple District Membership Growth Award. He’s received seven International President’s Awards, as well as the Ambassador of Good Will Award, the highest honor the association bestows upon its members.

Despite being based in a small city, the Seal Beach Lions Club has approximately 370 members. One of the reasons Alexander came to visit was to see more about how Seal Beach brings in so many members. The Seal Beach club does not hold traditional membership drives. Instead current members consistently encourage friends to try it.

But a big draw is the way the Seal Beach Lions incorporate young members, known as the Leos and Cubs within the club. They encourage members to bring their kids to allow them to feel comfortable and encouraged to help in whatever way they can.

Seal Beach’s Jim Klisanin (left), Lions Club International President Douglas Alexander, Lion Laura Ellsworth, and Sun Publisher Steven Remery pose for the camera. Photo by Ted Apodaca

“So, to hear that you incorporate them, and everything you do, speaks to the success that you’ve been having over these many years. So, I congratulate you on that,” Alexander said in his remarks to the club.

Prior to Alexander speaking, Seal Beach Lion Treasurer Scott Newton spoke to the gathering and summed up the year and efforts of the Seal Beach club, as well as mapping out the strategies and traditions the club has become known for.

Newton touched on some of the club’s signature projects, which include:

• Graffiti removal

• Beep Ball for the Blind

• Sailing for the Blind

• Spring Fest Easter Egg Hunt

• Honor the Teacher Night

• Designated Driver

• Breakfast with Santa

• Cub Program

The cub program came about as a way to keep young members engaged. Historically, when young people began having children their availability for meetings and club projects would dwindle, understandably, due to children’s need.

The counter was to encourage them to bring the children to meeting and projects and allow them to participate and engage from a young age.

“We said, ‘how about you continue being a Lion and you bring your kids to events, you bring them and help them serve’,” Newton said of the Cub Program.

There were a few small children at the lunch, including a newborn and a napping toddler. There were also two Leo Club presidents recognized for their efforts. But it emphasized Newton’s point that bringing them in young, encouraging and supporting them as a group and you get lifelong members.

“But they’re learning at a super young age that giving back is a good thing, and more importantly it’s kind of getting their parents involved in a way that we’ve never done before,” Newton said.

Alexander noted the inclusion of young members and rise in membership in Seal Beach. He also noted the large contingency of women members in Seal Beach and the rise in female membership in recent years. Early Lions Clubs were male only and Alexander shared that his home club was male only for many years. He said he finally said he could no longer be a member if they were going to adapt and start allowing women, which they did.

He also noted that the women were rising quickly into leadership roles and noted current International Second Vice President from Canada, Dr. Patti Hill. He said that the inclusion of women into his club breathed new life into the New York club.

“I know in my own club, if we hadn’t gotten women in there, we’d be in trouble,” Alexander said.

In closing, Alexander said that some of the signature events the Seal Beach Lions host are ones he might want to return to experience. Two he noted were the Fish Fry and the Christmas Parade.

Lions International president visits Seal Beach