On the Lighter Side: Plaquemine Lions Club still roars after 80 years

Joe Guilbeau

Plaquemine has always been a city of great organizations that have brought together its residents for civic duty.

Some have come and gone, and others are still with us.

One of the longest lasting in our city is the Plaquemine Lions Club, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

Joe Guilbeau

It was chartered in December 1942, exactly one year after World War II began with the attack at Pearl Harbor.

It’s obvious that many charter members of our club served our country in World War II.

For eight decades, the Plaquemine Lions Club has served our community in countless ways. I will outline some of these projects later in this story.

The International Association of Lions Clubs is today the largest service organization in the world with more than 1.4 million members in more than 43,300 clubs in 714 districts covering 188 countries and geographic territories.

Lions Clubs are not social clubs, although there are social benefits to members. For example, if I traveled outside the United States and needed help, I would go to a local Lions Club, and they would get me home safely.

The major focus of Lions fundraising is sight conservation, although other projects focus on drug awareness programs in high schools, diabetes awareness programs and other programs that are specified to individual clubs and districts.  

Lions took up sight conservation as the major goal after a speech by Helen Keller at the Lions International Convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, in 1925. At that time, Hellen Keller challenged the Lions to become “Knights of the Blind,” a quest that has become a rallying cry for Lions projects worldwide.

By a remarkable coincidence, the Plaquemine Lions Club was in a group of chapters that hosted the Helen Keller International Convention in Baton Rouge.

My wife was head of the food service, and I worked tables. All Helen Keller members either cannot see or cannot hear. They speak with their hands, by what they call “finger spelling.”

I had to talk through an interpreter. All members had interpreters who lived with them.

It was a common sight to see 10 or 12 in a circle with all their hands in the air speaking to each other.

To this day, Helen Keller remains a model of achievement among the severely disabled.

On the state level, the Plaquemine Lions Club support the Lions League for Crippled Children Camp near Leesville. The campers there all do what healthy campers do in summer camps.

I have gone to the camp many times. One time, my company recarpeted their putt-putt course.

In New Orleans, we own a seven-story building staffed by eye surgeons from Tulane and LSU. It is not just a surgery hospital, but also a teaching institution.

Eye surgeons with their interpreters come to our hospital for training. They come from all over the world.

So now, we have people who were legally blind who drive cars.

On the local level, the Plaquemine Lions Club has provided countless benefits to our city such as sight conservation that is carried out at many levels. Those services include free eye screening programs, mobile eye clinics, diabetic programs and collection used eyeglasses for distribution.

For more than 80 years, thousands of men have served in the Plaquemine chapter.

We have our own building on La. 77. It has served multiple purposes, such as club meetings, wedding receptions, family reunions and was used as a church for many years.

Our slogan is “We Serve.” Our international president is not paid.

It’s with tremendous pride that I say I have been a club member for 64 years.