By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
When Alabama Lions District 34-C held its convention in Atmore about four years ago, members of the local club went all out to impress attendees and make them feel welcome. Apparently, the effort was successful.
Not only have officials of the state organization chosen the city as the spot where they will hold their 97th Annual Convention, which will take place this Thursday, April 28, through Sunday, May 1, but a local resident will be installed as Lower Alabama’s chief Lion.
“As district governor, I will oversee all 26 clubs that are in the bottom-third of Alabama,” said District Governor-Elect Bub Gideons, who will officially become District Governor during a Sunday ceremony. “My job is to develop a clear and concise message that’s going to get membership up, going to get more service hours, going to help more people.
“What I have to do is take that message and visit every club in the district by the end of the (governorship) year, and hopefully we’ll develop new leaders.”
Gideons admitted that the task is a daunting one but pointed out that he would be assisted by the district’s first and second district vice-governors in completing the mission.
“We’re going to split it up so that we have enough time to work and sleep,” he laughed.
This year marks the 100th year of existence for Lions Clubs in Alabama. Atmore Lions Club was established 95 years ago and is hosting the state convention for the first time.
More than 100 Lions Clubs members from across the state, as well as leaders of Lions Clubs International, will convene at various sites within the city during the four-day affair to discuss business, perform service projects and install new officers.
Gideons said it was the work of three local women who impressed club members enough to lobby for the state convention to be held here.
“It wasn’t me,” he said of the impressive district conference that took place here. “I’m just so glad we were able have the right people in place at the district convention to get the (state convention) in Atmore. It was actually three people — Taylor Lee, Candace Wooten and Brandy Giger — who did it. They put on wonderful food, they had the casino as a backdrop and there were things for spouses to do.”
Conventioneers will conduct business meetings and other functions at The Club and at the hospitality room of Holiday Inn Express. They will be most visible, though, on Friday, when local and visiting Lions conduct various service projects across the city.
“Friday is our service day,” said Gideons. We’ll have people from Huntsville, Montgomery and other places help us pick up trash and talk about what’s going on in Atmore.” The litter eradication project will take place along U.S. 31, from Petty Funeral Home tot eh satellite courthouse.
Lions will have a full-size bus at First Baptist Church that contains an entire optometrist’s office. Anyone who makes and appointment by calling 251-294-2057 can get an eye exam (with $20 co-pay) and a pair of glasses for “about $60 total.”
Also on Friday, vision screenings will be conducted for residents of Atmore Nursing Center; there will be a diabetes walk at Rivercane; a canned food drive will be held at Walmart, and donation boxes will be set up to raise money for the fights against childhood cancer and to send kids to Camp Rapahope..
Mayor Jim Staff couldn’t say enough about the expected influx of Lions Club members.
“It will be great to have them, so welcome, welcome, welcome,” the mayor said. “They were here four years ago; they had a good time, and we had a good time with them. Anytime you have a group like that that comes back a second time, you know you did things right the first time. We have a real active Lions Club here, and they do a lot of stuff.”
Gideons agreed that the city’s selection as the site of the state convention makes quite a statement about Atmore.
“Things are happening in Atmore that make people want to choose to come here to have a convention when it could be anywhere,” said Gideons. “This is just one example of Atmore becoming a destination. We have more places to eat and entertain folks than most small towns that have Lions Clubs.
“I think the district (convention) went so well, people saw how much there is to do in Atmore. When it came time to pick a site for the state conference, the council chair went back to Atmore. That says a lot about where Atmore’s going. The more we bring people here, the more people will see that we’re on the move.”