The Athens Lions Club members and guests gathered on Wednesday night, Aug 2, to fill bags of school supplies for 60 school children, K thru 8th grade, in the Athens School District. On Saturday Aug 5, the Lions distributed those supplies to the children in need. In addition to the required supplies, each child was allowed to pick out a backpack if they wanted. The list of eligible children was came from Central Illinois Services. Menard County Housing Executive Director Anne Smith coordinated the event which including purchasing all the supplies. A total of 350 children in the Athens, Petersburg, and Greenview schools will benefit from this program. If you have a child that has a specific school supply need, please call the Menard Housing Housing Authority office at 632-7723 and leave a message. The back to school supplies program is funded by donations from businesses, groups, such as the Athens Lions Club, and individuals. If you would like to donate, call 632-7723 and leave a message. The Lions made a monetary donation as well as providing manpower for the event in keeping with the motto “WE SERVE”.
Lions Clubs are known for their service to the blind and hearing impaired. However, they also serve in many other ways, including fighting hunger, promoting diabetes awareness and treatment, engaging youth and protecting the environment.
“As Lions, we have the autonomy to serve in our communities as our community needs,” said Lori Bennett, Governor of District 1-M.
This past weekend Lions Club members from throughout Illinois District 1-M gathered for a conference at the Thelma Keller Convention Center in Effingham. District 1-M of Lions Club is comprised of 1,700 Lions in 63 clubs ranging from northeast Vermilion County to southwest Bond County. About 90 area Lions Club members attended the weekend conference. Although there currently is not a club in Effingham, there are clubs in Teutopolis and Altamont .
Sister Carol Beckermann, area director of Effingham Catholic Charities, told some Lions Club members who joined her session on “Hunger in Effingham County,” that there are some similarities between Catholic Charities and Lions.
“A lot of things interface between our groups,” said Beckermann. “We also focus on hunger. I look at how we can partner in what each of us do.”
Every Catholic Charities is unique from another, she said.
“If you’ve seen one Catholic Charities, you’ve seen one Catholic Charities.”
The Effingham Catholic Charities serves Clark, Crawford, Cumberland, Effingham, Fayette, Jasper and Shelby counties.
Beckermann said hunger in Effingham County is real and Catholic Charities serves between 800 to 900 families or about 2,500-3,000 individuals through its food pantry. It also has a Mobile Food Pantry that schedules 10 to 12 stops in different communities each year.
The organization stocks its shelves through food drives, but it also buys food, spending between $60,000 and $80,000 a year to supply its emergency food pantry. Beckermann said during the holidays, food drives are plentiful, but during the summer months, the shelves at the pantry get to be quite bare.
“When you talk about hunger in children, these children will not invite their friends over to come to their house, because they don’t have food or snacks,” said Beckermann. “They don’t want their friends to see they don’t have food or snacks. It’s kind of hidden from others. People usually don’t go around saying ‘I don’t have any food in my refrigerator.’”
Beckermann said many seniors are also stricken with hunger. A lot of seniors have to choose between medication and food.
“But both are needed,” she said. “Both are necessary for people.”
Catholic Charities offers an emergency food supply to clients once a month.
Like Lions, Catholic Charities in Effingham works with the local hospital to deal with diabetes. It tries to help people live a healthy lifestyle and obtain necessary medication.
Beckermann said clients are grateful for the services they receive. She added it isn’t unusual to get thank-you notes from mothers who are trying to make their food stretch — sometimes going without in order to feed their children.
“Most of our clients are people who are holding down two and three part-time jobs,” said Beckermann.
“They are often single parents or young couples with a baby. But they are not people who don’t want to work. It is more that they can’t find work that sustains them.“Clients are sometimes poverty stricken in other ways — educationally, psychologically or are caught in a loop of poverty from generation to generation