No. 515



When things hit close to home, it's no longer a matter of feeling sorry for someone else, as that someone else may be you. While I have never been one to feel sorry for myself, I had a real struggle a few months ago when I developed a case of double vision. To top it off, it happened just a few days before I was to travel by automobile to Branson, Mo., to make a speech. In this case, since I was going to be traveling alone, I was presented with a double problem. First, I had to get there, and I have enough trouble trying to dodge one car at a time, much less two. Then I had to be able to read my brief speaking notes at the engagement after I arrived. It was not a good feeling. Fortunately, my eye doctor was able to see me and have some new glasses made a couple of days before I was to leave. If you wear glasses, you know that trying to get used to them is another matter all together. To make a long story short, I made the trip fine but could not focus and pick up my notes at all, so I just had to wing it. If they were not pleased, at least they were kind enough not to say so. What this experience really did was to remind me again of just how precious our sight really is. If you are visually impaired, wear glasses or even if you are blind and have someone reading this to you, you can well appreciate what I am saying.

In this light, one of the most rewarding and satisfying things I have ever done is to be a part of our local Lions Club. As you may know, the main focus and purpose of Lions International and the 1.3 million Lions all over the world is to help the blind and visually impaired. In fact, we are the largest "service" organization in existence today, and our clubs can be found in almost 190 countries. At our state convention this past May, I had the privilege of presenting our Nationwide Literacy & Bookcase for Every Child Campaign to my fellow Lions. I am very optimistic that we will have many of our clubs involved in literacy over the coming months and years.

Having said that, I want to tell you about something far more important, in terms of helping the blind and visually impaired. Preceding my part on the program was a presentation by the Lions World Services for the Blind of Little Rock, Ark. After you hear about a new project they are undertaking, if you wear glasses or have family or friends who are blind or visually impaired, you may want to be a part of it. Before I tell you what it is, please allow me to give you a little background information. In 1939, Roy Kumpe began a program to train and employ people who are blind to operate vending stands in government buildings. In 1947, that program developed into a comprehensive blindness rehabilitation center in Little Rock, now known as Lions World Services for the Blind.

The center provides counseling services, personal adjustment training and vocational training in 13 career areas, ranging from computer programming to small engine repair. In its 58 years, LWSB has served more than 8,800 people from all 50 states and 57 other countries. It is the largest, most comprehensive adult rehabilitation center in the world and is fulfilling the mission of enabling the blind and visually impaired to live full, productive lives with dignity and self-respect. Now, here is the exciting part of what I am sharing. In order to continue to grow and be an industry leader, the Board of Directors has decided to pursue the process of building a new, state-of-the-art training facility that, much like our current facilities did in the early 60s, will set the standard for rehabilitation facilities all over the world.

The new facility will be on a hill just south of the Clinton Presidential Library, and will continue to shine a beacon of hope for those who are blind and visually impaired. The new campus will be built in three phases. The first phase, estimated to cost $17 million, will consist of 132,185 square feet, including dormitories that will house up to 100 trainees in private rooms with Internet access, a large 300-seat auditorium, and advanced state-of-the-art training facilities. The second phase, estimated to cost $3 million, will consist of an additional 22,935 square feet and will expand the dormitories to house up to 150 trainees.

The third and final phase of the campus, estimated to cost $2 million, will add 14,007 square feet for a total square footage of 167,126, including housing in private rooms for up to 200 trainees

If you are a Lion or someone who has a family member who is blind or visually impaired, if you will go to their Web site and click on CONTINUE THE VISION, you will be thrilled to see what they are building. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost their sight. This new facility will give all caring, giving Americans an opportunity to help them.

(Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)