If you go online to the Lions Clubs International website, this is what you’ll find printed on the home page:
“We’re making a world of difference ... Lions are changing the world one community at a time, by addressing needs at home and around the globe. We are 1.4 million men and women who believe that kindness matters. And when we work together, we can achieve bigger goals.”
One of more than 48,000 Lions Clubs in 200-plus countries worldwide is the local Plains Lions Club. And members are striving to do their part to be part of that “world of difference” — by providing vision correction for Sanders County students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The purpose of vision screening is early detection of the most prevalent vision disorders in children at the earliest possible age.
The Plains Lions Club has taken the next step toward providing the most modern vision screening by purchasing an plusoptix device earlier this month. Five club members were on hand for a training session on how to use the plusoptix last Saturday, Sept. 22 at the Plains School library.
DAVE FALCON of the Kalispell Lions Club brought three additional plusoptix devices that belong to that club to the Plains training. He also represented the Mountana Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation. Falcon is in charge of plusoptix training through the foundation.
The highly sophisticated battery-operated machine has a price tag of about $6,900, which includes a small dot matrix printer, optional AC power adapter and carrying case. The club got a $1,000 trade-in for the old S-9 device they had been using for the last six years or so, bringing the purchase price to $5,900.
About half of the $5,900 was provided by generous donations from Avista Energy, Blackfoot Communications and Rocky Mountain Bank, all in Sanders County. The other half of the money came from Plains Lions Club fundraising activities — most recently, the Sanders County Fair Demolition Derby.
“Because of donations, we’re able to pay for half the cost of the machine,” Plains Lions Club President Duane Highcrane said, “so they know where that money goes.”
There was good reason to look into purchasing modern vision screening equipment, such as the plusoptix. The S-9 model the club was using was thought to be unreliable, and there were problems with its accuracy.
“Now you can enter a student’s name and date of birth by spreadsheet,” according to Chuck Wassinger, current member and former treasurer of the local club. With the S-9, data had to be typed into the machine. “Schools can be in control of the data,” he said.
Current Plains Lions Club officers are Highcrane, president; Steve Spurr, vice president; Kevin Kerr, secretary; and Marvin Tanner, treasurer. Wassinger and Ken Matthiesen, a former Plains club treasurer, are among the other 20 club members. Highcrane, Tanner, Wassinger and Matthiesen all attended Saturday’s training session.
Two club members at a time will go to public schools across Sanders County — from Dixon to Noxon — to provide optional screening for students. That will occur early in the current school year. The screening is an annual event.
“Child’s sight is the biggest of all the focuses of the Lions Club,” Wassinger said.
IT’S IMPORTANT to know that the vision screening is of no charge to the parents of students or to the school.
“It’s one of the primary responsibilities we have as the Lions Club,” Wassinger added.
“You’d be surprised how many kids in kindergarten through grade school can’t see as well as they should,” Matthiesen said.
“These screenings can be life-changing,” Wassinger added.
Here’s how the screening works: A snapshot of the child’s eyes is taken by the plusoptix and the image is stored on an SD card. You get a “pass” or “refer” result instantly. And students can be test with or without the glasses they are currently wearing. So the plusoptix can best “through” glasses.
THE DATA from the screening, by way of the SD card, is given to the school nurse for download into the district’s computer system. If the result is “refer,” then the student can be referred to an optical specialist, such as an optometrist, at the request of the parents.
Students in the “refer” category “may or may not need vision correction,” Wassinger said. “They’re looking to find information that they can use.”
The Plains Lions Club has collection boxes at the Plains and Thompson Falls post offices where used eyewear/glasses and hearing aids can be deposited. They could help provide service to people in need.
The generosity of those who donate to the Plains Lions Club is highly commendable. The club raised $5,200 through the fair’s demolition derby. Other fundraisers are during Plains Day, raffles, and the Fourth of July breakfast (in conjunction with the Plains Rural Volunteer Fire Department).
The Plains Lions Club formed in 1944, and will celebrate its 75th anniversary in February 2019. Alvin Amundson is the senior member of the club, and he’s been part of it one year longer than Dave Helterline.
History recalls that Amundson “sold his house” years ago and donated the land that is now the Plains sports complex on the south side of town. He’s been a Plains Lions Club member for more than 60 years, according to other current members. Helterline has his own share of history, as Helterline Road in town is named after him.
THE PLAINS Lions Club will host their annual Halloween Weenie Roast, this year on Wednesday, Oct. 31, beginning at 5 p.m. at Fred Young Park. The event will include a costume contest, and Highcrane hinted that there could be a “parade of costumes” this year.
Tanner is ram-rodding a construction project at the Plains Pool, where a storage building will be erected. The club is teaming with the Town of Plains for reroofing the old town jail.
Also this year, the Lions Club will be putting up Christmas lights along Highway 28 through the downtown area and beyond.
The club meets on the first Tuesday each month at 6 p.m. at the rural fire hall.
“We’re constantly looking for new members,” Highcrane said. Anyone interested is invited to attend a monthly meeting.