There’s a black and white photo hanging upstairs at the Davenport Hotel. It was taken on April 20, 1922, at the charter dinner for Spokane Central Lions Club. Last weekend, 90 years later almost to the day, Spokane Central Lions celebrated its anniversary at the Davenport.
“Spokane Central Lions Club is the oldest and the largest in our district,” said Sanford E. Gerber, who’s been a member of Central Lions for 12 years and is also a past president.
Central Lions’ main program is preschool hearing screening. Gerber, a retired audiologist, said the program tries to reach every preschool in Spokane.
The Lions program will test every child with a permission slip and send the children who need it to a follow up exam – for free.
“About one-sixth of them get referred to a follow up, and that’s right about where that number should be,” Gerber said.
During the first weekend of May, Lions roll out the program they are perhaps best known for: the white cane program.
Gerber said all the Lions Clubs will be out in force Saturday and Sunday selling the well-known little white canes to raise money for cornea transplants.
“We still collect used eye glasses. They are sent to Third World countries,” Gerber said. “One year we collected and shipped 11,000 pairs of glasses.” Central Lions is also involved in a local hearing aid bank, which collects and refurbishes gently used hearing aids to be distributed among low-income people with hearing loss.
Every year, Central Lions gives out college scholarships between $500 and $1,500 to students from eight Spokane high schools. Gerber serves on the scholarship committee and he said the students who apply are truly remarkable.
“We had one student with two parents in jail,” Gerber said. “And another who was trying to keep the little sister off drugs after their mom died.”
There are about 115 members in Central Lions and every penny raised by the club goes to service.
Like many other civic and volunteer organizations, Gerber said the club is working harder than ever to retain members.
“Half of our new members are women,” Gerber said. “Why should you join? We do great service, and we have a lot of fun together.”