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Helping Hands

The Lions Club purchased a Video Magnification System in January for use at Community Connection to enable people with visual handicaps to read easily. Leon Allgire, seated, practiced using the system along with Mary Jo Carpenter, Community Connection director, while observing were Lions members Rick Taylor and Vickie Cunningham. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
The Lions Club purchased a Video Magnification System in January for use at Community Connection to enable people with visual handicaps to read easily. Leon Allgire, seated, practiced using the system along with Mary Jo Carpenter, Community Connection director, while observing were Lions members Rick Taylor and Vickie Cunningham. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).

By LISA BRITTON

Of the Baker City Herald

The Shriners have been called the "world's greatest philanthropy" for their work on behalf of children.

But the Shriners aren't the only philanthropic group with a Baker City connection. Chapters of several philanthropic groups are active in different causes locally and nationally, if not worldwide.

The Baker County Soroptimist Club is one such group and has been active in Baker City for over 60 years. Joyce O'Neal, the group's president, described Soroptimists as an international organization for business and professional women. The main emphasis for this world-wide organization is to work through service projects to advance human rights and the status of women.

This group is locally active, putting their focus on community needs. Soroptimist members complete fund-raising projects throughout the year, then donate money to various causes. They have given area law enforcement agencies equipment such as the Jaws of Life and breathalyzer units, as well as helping organize classes in self-defense training in conjunction with Blue Mountain Community College, O'Neal said. Soroptimist members also provide labor at the district and state 1A basketball tournaments that come to Baker City each year.

Students also benefit from this group's fund-raisers. Soroptimist offers five scholarships per year to graduating seniors and women who decide to further their higher education.

Other projects have included instigating an adopt-a-magazine program at the Baker County Library, maintenance of the lawn at the Leo Adler House and furnishing playground equipment at Geiser Pollman Park, O'Neal said.

The local Rotary Club makes a public appearance at Miners Jubilee when they sell buffalo burgers in the park, but that's only one of their many fund-raisers.

Matt Shirtcliff, club president, explained the four avenues of Rotary service: community, club, international and vocational.

Community projects deal with local causes, such as college scholarships and contributing money and manpower toward the local literacy program. Club members also focus on the senior citizen community in Baker City, serving lunches at Community Connection as well as serving a meal at McDonald's during the Thanksgiving holiday, Shirtcliff said.

The "club" avenue refers to funds that keep Rotary up and going in Baker City. The organization also focuses on international causes, and at this time their goal is to raise $2,000 for the fight to eradicate polio, he said.

When members join Rotary, they are classified according to their vocation. The fourth avenue of service, vocational, consists of inviting speakers to talk about different jobs. The club also helps arrange job shadowing opportunities for area students so they can get a taste of different careers.

Other Rotary services include helping at the district and state 1-A basketball tournaments and the flag project: residents and businesses have an account with the club, and the members put out flags at these locations on the appropriate days.

George "Bill" Gwilliam and John Burgess, both of Baker City, have been in Rotary since it was founded in 1956 and are the only remaining charter members.

Kiwanis International, established in Baker City in 1921, focuses on their "priority number one": supporting programs for young children from prenatal to five years of age, according to Dave Cowan, club secretary. He said that the club specifically focuses on projects for this cause, then donates funds to local organizations such as Baker County CASA, First Books and Calling on Moms.

Kiwanians complete several major fund-raisers every year. They sell entertainment books in the fall, raffle off a playhouse once a year and place bubblegum vending machines throughout Baker City, which raise several hundred dollars per year, Cowan said.

During the school year, this group sponsors the student-of-the-month award at Baker High School. Faculty members nominate two students who have completed outstanding work, then recipients have their pictures placed in the high school common area and attend a Kiwanis lunch meeting.

Another program they sponsor is HOBY (Hugh O'Brien Youth), a leadership development program, Cowan said. Baker High School faculty choose a sophomore who demonstrates leadership ability, then Kiwanis pays for the registration fee and lodging for a three-day conference in Portland.

Cowan said that an international cause this club raises funds for is to combat iodine deficiency disorder (IDD). The funds go to UNICEF, which provides the equipment and staff to train local people in participating countries on how to avoid IDD, such as by adding iodine to the salt.

A future event the Kiwanis are planning is a parenting fair, scheduled for September 2003. Darlene Teskey, club president, said that they hope to bring in state-wide as well as local participants to offer parents the opportunity to learn what parenting resources are available in regard to nutrition, education and safety.

Since the Baker City Lions Club began in 1929, they have focused on four main concerns: sight, hearing, diabetes and youth, club member Vickie Cunningham said.

During Miners Jubilee, the Baker City Lions Club members can be seen at Geiser Pollman Park, providing a hearty breakfast on both Saturday and Sunday.

During the rest of the year, this club assists with many community events like the district and state 1A basketball tournaments, highway cleanup and National Night Out. In May they sponsor a Mobile Screening Unit where people can get their eyesight, hearing, blood sugar and blood pressure checked for free.

Along with supporting these causes, the Lions also provide grants to help with the cost of eyeglasses and hearing aids, as well as the supplies needed for diabetics. Along the same lines, the club collects old eyeglasses and hearing aids that are donated to the used eyeglass recycling program and the Oregon Lions Hearing Aid Bank. The recycled items then are donated to Third World countries.

During March the club raises money through Radio Days when they sell radio advertisements, and currently they are working on the Community Calendar. With this project, people pay $1 for each name they would like on the calendar, such as a birthday or anniversary. For their donation, buyers receive a free calendar.

Local causes that benefit from Lions support are the Baker Middle School career day, the seeing-eye dog club, Little League and Girls and Boys State.

These four service groups, along with many non-profit organizations in Baker City, provide on-going contributions to our local area, and are always looking for new members. To join one of these clubs, interested people are encouraged to attend one of the meetings.

Meeting times:

Rotary: Monday at noon, Geiser Grand

Kiwanis: Tuesday at noon, Geiser Grand

Soroptimist: second, third and fourth Wednesday at noon, Geiser Grand

Lions: Thursday at noon, Sunridge restaurant

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