The idea for a charity foundation was conceived in the fall of 1976 by Lion John R. Langston of the Hampton Northampton Lions Club. Unlike many other organizations, prior to 1976 the Lions found it difficult to create sizeable projects of long range durability. As Activities Chairman on the cabinet of District Governor Ernest F. Hardee, Lion John was charged with the responsibility of creating new activities to involve more Lions.
After considerable deliberation a decision was made to establish a nonprofit corporation governed by a board of directors with fund raising expertise and representative of all areas of the district. The directors would serve staggered terms, one-third elected each third year, to provide the continuity necessary for development of long-range commitments. The district governor was to be a member of the board, not the controlling force.
This proposal was presented to the district cabinet at the 1976 District 24-D Fall Conference held at the Lake Wright Motel. Reaction was favorable. Lion Richard A. Rilee, District Constitution and Bylaws Chairman, a member of the Newport News Host Lions Club, with the assistance of Lion Langston, was directed to prepare articles of incorporation and bylaws. Preliminary documents were submitted at the February cabinet meeting.
At the first cabinet meeting in 1978, it was reported that a majority of the clubs in the district favored the formation of a charity fund corporation, whereupon District Governor Alexander N. Branch, created a new committee called the District 24-D Charity Fund Committee and appointed Lions John and Richard as co-chairmen.
In 1979-80, District Governor Roland R. Larmore, Jr., appointed Lion John to serve as chairman of the Charity Fund Committee for another year. For a while, the committee flirted with the idea of sponsoring Bob Hope in a benefit event, but eventually plans were dropped when the event was thought too speculative.
Articles of Incorporation were submitted to the State Corporation Commission and officers were elected for the new District 24-D Lions Charity Fund. Those elected were Arthur Lazarow, PDG, President; Alexander N. Branch, PDG, Vice President; Gerald E. Feidt, Secretary; and Bernard Levitin, Treasurer.
At the fall conference, October 25, 1980, bylaws for the new corporation were approved. The bylaws provided for a board of directors that would include the current district governor and two elected directors from each of the eight zones.
Meanwhile, a new opportunity arose. The Anheuser-Busch Company located in Williamsburg, Virginia, decided to move the company sponsored PGA Golf Tournament from California to its own course at Kingsmill. Past District Governor Alexander N. Branch discussed Lions involvement in the tournament with Kingsmill Properties General Manager Harry D. Knight.
Inasmuch as the Lions of 24-D already had the nucleus of a charity fund in place, the district was allowed to provide volunteers for the tournament and receive compensation for its services. The contribution received from Anheuser-Busch in 1981 for the first tournament was $25,000. By 1995, it had increased to $55,000. ln addition, the district has been allowed to serve as co-sponsor of the Curtis Strange Pro-Am Tournament, renamed “The Orion Burkhardt Memorial Pro-Am,” held prior to the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic. Distrct 24-D received $22,500 from the Pro-Am in 1995.
When the District 24-D Charity Fund was initially established, the board consisted of one director from each of the eight zones; seven additional directors elected at large, five of whom were elected each year; the current district governor and one appointed representative, a total of seventeen. Currently the board of seventeen Lions is composed of one director from each of seven zones, eight at-large directors, the current district governor, and his appointed cabinet representative. The president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer are elected by the board.
The District 24-D Lions Charity Fund operates exclusively for charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes, and assists Lions clubs that have a financial need which can not be met by the clubs or zone. Over the course of its 19 year history, the charity fund has supported many worthwhile district projects
On April 2, 1984, the directors amended the articles of incorporation to change the name of the corporation to the Lions Charity Foundation of District 24-D, Incorporated. At the fall conference charity fund membership meeting on September 29, 1984, the name change was approved, and the amendment was officially executed November 30, 1984.
During the first four years of its operation, the charity foundation received thirteen grant requests and distributed nearly $30,000. Two grants totaling $12,000 were made to the Williamsburg Community Hospital. The Triple C Lodge in Chesapeake received $6,000. Additional grants assisted Lions clubs projects and worthy organizations supporting the sight and hearing impaired.
In addition, the District 24-D Lions Charity Fund selected Norfolk General Hospital for a joint venture to build a Lions sight and hearing center. The cost of the project was $814,000 of which the Lions Charity Fund of District 24-D, Incorporated, agreed to fund $407,000. This obligation was paid in full prior to the due date, and the center was dedicated in early 1987. The center is currently known as the Lions Center for Sight and houses the Lions Medical Eye Bank of Eastern Virginia, Inc.
In 1991, the articles of incorporation and bylaws were brought up to date. A policy and procedures manual was developed to assist in the administration of the foundation. These documents were distributed to the secretary of each Lions club in District 24-D. To make the foundation more responsive to the Lions clubs in the district, a grant request application was developed and the medical grant application updated. The foundation has continued its partnership with Anheuser-Busch and receives the majority of new funding from the annual golf tournament at Kingsmill in Williamsburg.
The Edward M. “Moon” Kosjer Endowment for Indigent Sight Care of approximately $60,000 was established with contributions from friends and co-workers and receipts from the testimonial dinner given Lion Moon upon retirement as executive director of the Lions Medical Eye Bank of Eastern Virginia. This endowment was established to assist the indigent with eye care, including eye exams and surgery. Recently, the Lions Medical Eye Bank of Eastern Virginia contributed $50,000 to the Lions Charity Foundation and $40,000 to the “Moon” Kosjer Endowment Fund. With the interest earned on these funds, the Endowment Committee provides assistance to needy individuals and Lions clubs for eye care.
In 1990, the foundation was asked to consider a major project at Old Dominion University, the expansion of its Child Studies Center. In order to receive state assistance, the university was required to raise $1,000,000 in private funding. The project was approved by the Lions clubs of District 24-D as a district project, and foundation funding was requested. When it was assured that state funds would be available for the project, the District Charity Foundation agreed to provide $300,000. An initial contribution of $100,000 was made in January, 1993, with provisions for five annual payments of $40,000 to follow.
The expanded Old Dominion Univeristy Child Studies Center will be named the “Lions Child Study Center” and a large Lions emblem will be mounted with the sign on the side of the building. The Lions of District 24-D are the largest private contributor to this project. The Lions Child Study Center will reach many people in southeastern Virginia through the training of special education teachers and speech pathologists who will travel throughout Virginia and beyond to enrich the lives of children with learning disabilities. The Lions Child Studies Center will also treat local children with learning disabilities.
With the death of Orion Burkhardt, Executive Director of the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic, the Lions lost a good friend. The Charity Foundation contributed $30,000 toward the construction of the “Orion Burkhardt Memorial Patient Pavilion” at Williamsburg Hospital. Orion was responsible for the expanded role Lions volunteers play in the golf classic and the significant contribution received each year from the tournament.
Since the beginning of this century the Foundation has continued to grow in not only the size of the endowment, which provides a major portion of our annual budget, but also in the breath of services provided to the communities we serve and the Lions Clubs located in them. It should be noted that District 24-D is the only district in Virginia to have its own Charity Foundation.
The Michelob PGA Tournament at Kingsmill in Williamsburg continued to be the only major annual fund raiser helping the Foundation up to 2002. In 2002 Michelob decided to switch from the PGA to hosting an LPGA tournament at Kingsmill called the Michelob Ultra Tournament. The Foundation saw a considerable reduction of income as a result of this switch but the tournament still remained the largest contributor to the Charity Foundation. In 2009 Michelob was purchased by AB InBev and the LPGA tournament was cancelled shortly thereafter. The Foundation began immediately to explore avenues for a suitable fundraiser to replace the nearly three decade association with Anheuser-Busch, Kingsmill and professional golf.
As a fund raising alternative the Foundation started a Bid ‘n Buy Auction in 2010. In 2012, Kingsmill Country Club and the LPGA again started an LPGA event at Kingsmill and district Lions and the Foundation accepted an invitation to participate. After considersable discourse, in December 2013 the Foundation decided it was in our best interest to withdraw from the LPGA event and concentrate our resources on expanding the Bid ‘n Buy Auction. Now in its fourth year, the auction has proven successful and is expected to continue as our principal fund raiser.
Contributions from individual District Lions Clubs and our Good Samaritan Fellowship recognition program, provided the remainder of the annual income needed to support the Foundation’s budget. The Good Samaritan Fellowship recognition program is available for recognizing individuals or organizations supporting the "We Serve" motto of Lions. Each year the Foundation has budgeted between $75,000 and $90,000 to support our District. The impact of these expenditures is estimated to exceed $175,000 annually due to our partnering with generous professionals and organizations who provide skills and services to our clients at greatly reduced rates. Over the last few years some of the major expenditures have been for the replacement of the District 24-D Mobile Sight and Hearing Unit, equipment upgrades at the Lions Eye Bank of Southeastern Virginia, the Lions Sight Center at Norfolk Sentara Hospital, and the Southside Eye Glass Recycling Center. The Foundation has also expanded assistance to the District Hearing Aid program, young children eye screenings provided via SPOT™ Vision Screener, Local Area Medical Programs(LAMPS) conducted throughout the district, blood sugar screening, cataract and other eye related operations. We continue to look for ways to help our District Lions accomplish community service.
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