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     The International Association of Lions Clubs is the world's largest and most effective community service organization, with more than 1.4 million members.  There are more than 44,800 Lions Clubs in approximately 188 countries and geographical areas.  Regardless of what language they speak, religion they practice or politics they espouse, all Lions are dedicated to seeking out and helping those in need.

     In 1917, a Chicago insurance agent named Melvin Jones convinced his luncheon club, the Business Circle of Chicago, that it should ally itself with other independent clubs to form a national organization that would be dedicted not only to networking for business and social purposes, but to the improvment of the community as a whole.

     Among the groups invited was the Association of Lions Clubs, headquartered in Evansville, Indiana and led by Dr. W. P. Woods.  At the time of the meeting, June 7, there were several Lions clubs already in existence, some having been organized in 1916.

     The Business Circle and other clubs agreed to rally under the Lions name, and a convention was called for October in Dallas, Texas.  Thirty-six delegates representing 22 clubs from nine states heeded the call, approved the "Lions Clubs" designation, and elected Woods as the first president.  Guiding force and founder Jones was named acting secretary, thus beginning and association with Lions that ended only with his death in 1961.

     The convention also began to define what the association was to become.  A constitution and by-laws were adopted, the colors of purple and gold approved, and a start made on the Lions Clubs Objects and Code of Ethics.

     Remarkably, considering the materialism of the era, both Objects and Ethics encouraged Lions to put service ahead of profit, and to uphold the highest standards of conduct in business and the professions.

     Community leaders soon began to organize clubs throughout the United States.  The association became "International" with the formation of a club in Windsor, Ontario, Canada in 1920.  Clubs were later organized in Mexico, China and Cuba.  By 1927, membership stood at 60,000 in 1,183 clubs.

     In 1935, Panama became home to the first Central America club; the first club in South America was organized in Colombia the following year.  Sweden, then France, brought Europe into the association in 1948.  Japan had clubs in 1952, and the so-called "Eastern Bloc" was unblocked in 1989 with the formation of clubs in Hungary, Poland and Estonia.  In 1990, a club was chartered in Moscow and today over 100 Lions clubs are demonstrating the value of service in countries once closed to voluntary action.