How it all Began

Prior to the Lion Year 1975-1976, there was no organized, systematic program in District 24-A for conducting vision, glaucoma, or hearing screenings. Some clubs, however, occasionally conducted glaucoma screenings whenever they could arrange for the services of an ophthalmologist, and some occasionally conducted vision screenings with either purchased or borrowed vision screeners. Vision and glaucoma screenings for the district as a whole were sporadic. Hearing screening in our district had been virtually non-existent. Recognizing these problems in carrying out one of our major programs--the early detection of sight and hearing deficiencies--

Then District Governor Ed Minney, in the Lion Year 1975-1976, appointed a committee of Lions to study these problems. The committee was tasked to determine the economic feasibility of developing a Mobile Screening Van program to conduct both sight and hearing screenings on a continuing basis; to measure its potential benefits; and, to estimate its costs, both for initial capital outlays, and for continuing operations. Lion Ray Wotring, of the Park West Lions Club, chaired the initial committee. The committee met on numerous occasions with professional hearing and vision specialists and other groups. Based on the information obtained in these meetings, the committee:

The committee's recommendations to approve and implement the program, with an initial budget of $30,000 (to be solicited from the clubs of District 24-A), were approved by the District Governor and his Cabinet in May 1976. Before the end of the Lion Year 1975-1976, as contributions were received from the clubs, the mobile screening vehicle was ordered and delivered. The van, a 27-foot Winnebago Motor Home, was provided at dealer's cost by Koons Pontiac in Manassas VA, whose President, Joe Koons, was also a member of the initial committee. In the Lion Year 1976-1977, then District Governor Roy Wilson continued support of the program and appointed as District Chairman Lion Dee D'Oria of the Springfield-Franconia Host Lions Club (Lion D'Oria was also a member of the initial committee). As contributions were received from the clubs, the final payment was made for the van and the vision, hearing, glaucoma, and other support equipment were purchased and installed. The program became operational in November 1976.

During the Lion Year 1979-1980, Lion Pete Bianchi of the Annandale Lions Club was appointed by the Corporate Board of Directors to serve as full-time operator/technician of the van. During its initial period of operation (November 1976 through June 1977) 5,180 people were screened in the van by 25 Lions Clubs in District 24-A. On April 5, 1978, the Commonwealth of Virginia incorporated the program as the "Sight and Hearing Mobile Screening Unit, Lions of Virginia, District 24-A, Inc." a non-profit corporation. In May 1984, the Spotsylvania Lions Club sponsored the van at the Spotsylvania Mall, Fredericksburg, VA and the 100,000th person was screened. On April 9, 1989, the Board of Directors concluded a nine-month study and approved the purchase of a new 34-foot van. The new van cost $60,000 and commenced operations in November 1989. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the Fall Conference and was attended by members of the District 24-A Cabinet Board of Directors, and Lions and Lionesses of the District. The new van was open throughout the fall and Winter Conferences so that members of the district could walk through and talk to the District Chairman and van operators. During the 33 years of service (1997-2009) more that 500,000 adults and children were screened by the Lions District 24-A Sight and Hearing Vans.

Since the district now had a new van the old van was idle. Lion Doc Plummer, who had just finished his van technician training, took the old van to his home and started on a much needed major overhaul. When he finished, the Board of Directors decided to put that van back in service. In September 1990, the van went back into full service. Ever since that date, the Lions of Virginia, District 24-A has had two vans in service for sight and hearing screening tests. The new van is used on long trips while the second van is used for short trips. Both vans are equipped the same, and both vans maintain a rather full schedule. Today, the district has a van scheduler, one lead van technician who is responsible for training and maintenance, and several  van technician drivers. The district is always looking for Lions as additional drivers. New drivers participate in a three-month paid training program. Any Lion interested in becoming a van driver/technician should contact Lion Dave Collyer our Lead Van Technician . Contact information is on the Driver and Van Technician Page.

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