Lions Clubs International members celebrate group’s 100th anniversary

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Lions from around the world share the organization’s history as pioneers in humanitarian work since their Chicago founding in 1917. | Lions Club International

Thirty-thousand lions are on the prowl around Chicago.

Members of the service organization – not the four legged creatures– are in the city for the 100th annual Lions Clubs International Convention.

The convention, titled “Welcome Home, Lions,” commemorates the organization’s 1917 start in Chicago.

Those in attendance represent over half of the Lions Clubs International’s 47,000 clubs and hail from 110 countries.

Lions International volunteers from 110 countries come home to Chicago for the Lions International Centennial Convention. LCI was founded in Chicago in 1917 and grew to be the world’s largest service club organizations. | Lions Club International

Lions International volunteers from 110 countries come home to Chicago for the Lions International Centennial Convention. LCI was founded in Chicago in 1917 and grew to be the world’s largest service club organizations. | Lions Club International

Chicago businessman Melvin Jones created the club when he pushed his local business club to look beyond work-related issues and contribute to helping the world.

During the five-day event that runs from Friday through Tuesday, members will participate in 12 service projects at organizations such as the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and attend a series of service-focused educational seminars and exhibits at the McCormick Place.

They also plan to volunteer at Blessings in a Backpack – a non-profit that aims to feed school children – garden at the Gary Comer Youth Center, and help clean up debris on Chicago’s beaches.

On Tuesday, the day will kick off a parade down State Street and officials will later announce a new diabetes campaign, said Dane LaJoye, a spokesman for Lions Clubs International.

Currently, the club deals with the environment, hunger relief, pediatric cancer and vision.

“We’re focused on our history and our future,” LaJoye said.

LaJoy said organizers want to “rekindle” the Lions’ “spirit of service” with the activities, because service is why the club exists.

Former Vice President Al Gore is expected to address the group and singer Patti LaBelle will be performing for attendants.

“We really hope that lions leave the convention with a new-found spirit, and go back to their respective homes and carry on service in their communities,” LaJoye said.

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