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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

This is The Rutherford Lions Club

By Jennifer Ersalesi

Laura O'Connor and Glenn Elliot

Theresa Gilburn, former President of the Lions Club of Rutherford truly understands what it means to be part of a service organization. “Do Good for others and it will come back to you, is what I like to say,” says Theresa. As the Lions Club celebrates their 97th Anniversary, it is clear that taking care of others is always on their agenda. Current Treasurer, Glenn Elliot, and President, Laura O’Connor explained the important role the Lions Club of Rutherford plays locally and internationally.

TIR: The Lions Club of Rutherford, a member of Lions Clubs International, is a service-oriented volunteer organization whose main projects are geared towards helping the visually impaired. Locally, the Lions Club assists the community at large by helping these individuals, what are some ways you do this?

GE: Our club takes a day every spring to go to Camp Marcella, a camp for blind and visually impaired children, to help get the camp ready for the season. Locally, we pay for eye exams and eyeglasses for needy children and adults. We receive referrals from the school nurses and Social Services. We collect used eyeglasses at the 55 Kip Center and the Post office and they are recycled and sent all over the world to people who need them.

LO: Over the years we have assisted with the purchase of equipment needed by blind residents and we make an annual donation to the Rutherford Public Library for the purchase of large print books. We also provide financial support to programs throughout the state that assist the visually impaired, including the Lions Eye Bank of NJ and the Music Association for the Visually Impaired Students of NJ.

TIR: The vision screenings that you provide for children in the community are very important. When and where do these screenings occur?

LO: With funds raised from the Boiling Springs Savings Bank’s Community Alliance Program and a grant from the Lions Charitable Foundation, we purchased the PediaVision Spot Vision Screener™ to screen the vision of children. It has been determined that screening children between the age of 6 months and five years has a great positive impact by identifying vision disorders that may go undetected at such an early age. There is a greater recovery rate and treatment possibilities when vision disorders are detected at an early age. The Spot Vision Screener makes vision screening as easy as taking a photo. We welcome daycare centers and preschools to invite the Lions Club to provide free vision screenings for their students.

TIR: The Lions Club, as a whole, also participates in many other service projects and events in Rutherford. What can you tell us about how the Club supports the community?

GE: The Rutherford Lions Club raises funds through a Spaghetti dinner in the fall and a Pancake Breakfast in the spring. We make donations to the Rutherford Food Pantry throughout the year and we have donated our surplus fruit from our annual fruit sale to the Food Pantry.

Skip Hildebrand and Bill Galloway

LO: We serve lunch to the seniors at 55 Kip Center and one of our members provides a beautifully decorated tree for the Annual Festival of Trees and Wreaths. We also make donations to organizations such as the Meadowlands Museum, the Rutherford Community Blood Bank, and American Legion Boys State and Girls State.

TIR: Although all of the service projects are important, many of your members have particular projects that are special to them for one reason or another. Long time member, Kevin “Skip” Hildebrand said, “Personally, I take great pride in giving a scholarship to a deserving RHS senior. It is always encouraging to see the accomplishments of the applicants. It is amazing what some of the students have successfully done throughout their lives, especially during high school.” Of all the projects you participate in throughout the year, of which are you most proud?

LO: I am most proud of our vision-screening program. I also love that we sponsor the Lions International Peace Poster Contest in our schools. By working with the Art Teachers at the schools in town, we encourage the Rutherford Students (ages 11-13) to express their visions of peace by creating a poster for the contest. Our members select a winning poster from each school, who then advance to the District Contest. I always look forward to the creative artwork submitted by the students. This year we will award an additional scholarship in memory of Theodore Van Winkle. Ted was the eldest member of the Rutherford Lions Club, and his Dad organized the Rutherford Lions Club in 1921.

Camp Marcella

GE: I am very proud of our vision screening. I am also very proud of Camp Marcella and that Rutherford Lions was one of the first sponsors of Rutherford Little League. We still sponsor both a baseball team and a softball team. Rutherford Lions also sponsors a town-wide Holiday decorations contest. We have done this for 73 years. It began in 1946, with the end of World War II. The Rutherford Lions Club wanted to encourage residents to again light up their homes for Christmas, so they decided to sponsor a Holiday decoration contest. The winners are presented with a certificate and gift card at a Mayor and Council meeting early in the new year.

TIR: As with most service organizations, the Rutherford Lions Club is always seeking new members. How can someone become part of the Lions Club?

GE: The Rutherford Lions are always looking for new ways to assist the community and we are always looking for new members who want to be part of this great service organization. To join the club, speak with any member of the Club or send a request from our website,

LO: Each month (September through May) we have a Social meeting on the 4th Wednesday of the month at 55 Kip Center. We welcome prospective members to attend, meet our members and listen to the guest presenter of the evening. Our next social meeting will be held on March 27th at 7:00 pm. At each of our events we display information about our Club in hopes that we will inform the community about our Club and potentially attract new members, as well.

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