Covington Lions Club member Joe Richardson helps pack take-out orders during the annual chicken barbecue.
Jimmy Williams remembers that in the late 1960s Covington Lions Club members sold brooms, mops and lightbulbs door-to-door to raise money to pay for eye exams and glasses for poor people. His wife, Martha, encouraged him to participate in the effort.
"They were having such a good time," said Williams, a member of the Covington Lions Club now for 44 years. "She talked me into it and I did (join) and I never regretted it."
This month marks the 60th year of operation for the Covington Lions Club, a local chapter of Lions Club International, which focuses on, among other areas, providing uninsured and underinsured low-income children and adults with free eye exams and glasses, as well as hearing devices.
About 50 people a year, mostly school age children, benefit from the Covington Lions Club free vision services. Other Lions organizations the club contributes to include the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation, which offers assistance to those who need eye surgery but cannot afford it; the Georgia Lions' Camp for the Blind; and Leader Dogs for the Blind.
The club also donated $6,500 to help build the Miracle League Field, a baseball field designed for disabled children, in Newton County. The club also collects and refurbishes old cellphones for senior citizens to use in emergencies.
Doreen Stallworth, a club member since 2005, said the Georgia Lions State Convention recently named the Covington Lions Club top club out of 20 in the district.
"The Lions come together and we work hard. It's a good feeling to know that everything we do goes back to the needy in the way of sight and hearing impairment," Stallworth said. Stallworth will take over as secretary/treasurer of the club, replacing Williams who held the position for 20 years.
In order to accomplish its projects, the 64-member Covington Lions Club raises money through several fundraisers, the most lucrative of which is its annual barbecue chicken dinner. Since 1972, the club has held its chicken barbecue the second Wednesday in April at the Neal Banks Lions Club Pavilion at Academy Springs Park, 3120 Conyers St. in Covington.
Williams said the most recent sale of barbecue chicken, chips, slaw, bread and tea for $7 a plate generated more than $11,000.
"We cooked 3,200 chicken halves," said Williams.
The Covington Lions Club annual chili dinner raises close to $2,500, and for several years the club presented Sherman's Last Burning, a barbecue competition sponsored by the Kansas City Barbecue Association, which brought in several thousand dollars.
The group also helped shuttle people back and forth at a shooting range contest and it sold concessions at the competition, garnering about $5,000 each year.
Both the shooting competition and Sherman's Last Burning are no longer in operation, but the club did start a new fund-raiser this year -- a pancake breakfast in October. It raised $2,100.
"It went well," said Williams, who hopes to get more hungry people through the door next year.
Covington Lions Club members hail from Rockdale, Newton and Walton counties. Stallworth said in addition to the satisfaction of helping people in need, the club also provides fellowship.
"We've met so many great people in the Lions Club and so many of them are so willing to give of their time and energy," said Stallworth, who's husband Earl Stallworth takes over as club president this year. "It encourages us to do the same."
The Covington Lions Club meets monthly at the Neal Banks Lions Club Pavilion. To learn more about the club or if you are interested in joining, visit www.covingtongalions.org.