The Oak Ridge Lions Club was chartered on May 13, 1946, in the Grove Center Dining Hall with International Vice President Clifford Pierce officiating. The club was originally chartered with 29 members under the sponsorship of visiting Lions from the Fountain City Lions Club. At that time, Oak Ridge was a closed community; that is, it was surrounded by a fence and only persons with business in the community were allowed to enter.
The average age in the town, which had been only recently created by the Federal Government, was around 30 years, and the total population approached 80,000. The average age of the Club members reflected that of the town, and the size of the Club in this community quickly grew to over 200 members by June of 1948. As a fund-raising effort, in 1946 the new Club auctioned a new car, which was a very desirable item in those days, and they raised over $16,000.
Recording for the Blind: One of the first projects of the Oak Ridge Lions was to establish a Recording for the Blind unit in Oak Ridge. This unit leveraged the unique demographics of the community, and provided vision-impaired under-graduate and graduate students with technical textbooks. Volunteers were trained to transcribe technical textbooks on audio files that were available for free, and therefore allowed vision-impaired students to study engineering and scientific subjects. Over the years, Recording for the Blind evolved to include Dyslexia and has now become part of Learning Ally.
Scholarship Program: The Oak Ridge Lions Club began a scholarship program in the 1970s to fund scholarships for deserving graduates of Oak Ridge High School. This scholarship program continues today.
Oak Ridge Century Lions Club: The Century Lions Club was sponsored by the early Oak Ridge Lions club in 1975. Lions Herbert Diggs and Jim Zitzman recruited new members for the Century club that was chartered on January 24, 1975 in a gala meeting that featured UT President Andy Holt as the guest speaker. Over the years, the Century Lions Club conducted many service projects and contributed to local and international causes. One special project to assist single-parent families, was to initiate a local Big Brothers/Big Sisters chapter. The agency soon thereafter became a member of the United Way, and eventually folded into the Knox County Big Brothers/Big Sisters to minimize administrative costs.
The community has gradually decreased to it’s current population of ~30,000. As the needs of the community changed, so did the projects of the Lions. Sight Conservation always had a priority, and the needs of the community were met in many ways.
The two Oak Ridge Lions Club partnered on many projects throughout their history, and they merged in 2008 while retaining the name Oak Ridge Lions Club.
Learn more about the Oak Ridge Lions Club’s community and fundraising projects on other pages of this website.