UTEP Lions Club Promotes Community Service, Volunteerism
Daniel Perez | February 06, 2015 | UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
Lillian Mayberry, Ph.D., retired research professor of biological sciences, right, is a charter member of the UTEP Lions Club, which was established in 2002. With her are, from left, fellow Lions Karen Gutierrez, senior education major, and Rebecca Duran, a campus coordinator and club president, and Jessica Duran, sophomore environmental science major, who is wearing the lion costume.
Photo by Daniel Perez / UTEP News Service
Efrain Aguilera was a member of The University of Texas at El Paso's Lions Club before he took his first college class and he plans to stay involved with Lions Club International, the world's largest philanthropic organization, because the group changed how he sees the world.
Aguilera, a senior electrical engineering major, was not always gung-ho on serving his community. His focus was on earning good grades until he learned that employers want people with broader perspectives.
The first-generation college student's older brother, who already was a UTEP student and member of the campus Lions, invited him to join the club. He immediately got involved in projects and personally saw the club's impact.
Club members will participate in one of the group's annual fundraisers, White Cane Day, from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, in front of the Premiere Cinemas at Bassett Place, 6101 Gateway Boulevard West. One hundred percent of the money raised there will go to the Texas Eye Foundation to help those who need eye exams, eyeglasses or eye surgery.
Aguilera, a researcher in UTEP's W.M. Keck Center for 3-D Innovation, said his involvement in these kinds of activities have given him a greater sense of purpose. His participation in the chapter's 2011 Thanksgiving food basket giveaway was a watershed moment. He helped raise money and collect food and toiletries for the baskets, but his strongest memories were of delivering the goods to families registered with El Paso's Center Against Family Violence.
"I learned how much many of us take for granted," Aguilera said as he recalled visiting families in modest homes near the University and their emotional response to the largesse of others. "We may not be able to change the world, but for that day we can change the perception of the world for those families."
Lions Club International was started in 1917 by a Chicagoan who suggested to his business peers that they should look beyond their company concerns and enhance society through community service. By year's end, several organizations from around the country who shared goals met in Dallas, Texas, and took on the Lions’ name.
By 1920 the organization that preached humanitarianism and international understanding had spread to Canada and then to Mexico in 1927. Today there are approximately 1.35 million Lions in more than 200 countries around the globe.
The UTEP Lions Club started with 40 members, including five faculty and staff, in 2002. Its focus is to raise money for charity, provide community service and train future community leaders. Its charter was sponsored by the El Paso Downtown Lions Club, the community's oldest philanthropic club that was established in 1923.
These days the UTEP club has about 25 members made up of staff, faculty, community members and 15 students. The club averages one project per month. Future activities include participating in the March 1, 2015, El Paso Race for the Cure, which raises funds for breast cancer awareness, and this summer they will landscape a Central El Paso home owned by a person with a visual impairment.
Lillian Mayberry, Ph.D., retired UTEP research professor of biological sciences, was one of the club's charter members and is still active today. She said Lions International began a push in the late 1990s to recruit younger members and decided to start clubs on college campuses.
Mayberry said the UTEP club, one of 15 in El Paso, is more informal than their peer groups in how it follows traditions and accommodates the schedules of its student members who often juggle work, school and family. The $6 monthly due is less than most other clubs, and the chapter waives the $30 Lions entry fee for students up to age 28.
"I enjoy working alongside this group of Lions because they bring a youthful dynamic and an earnest commitment to service," she said. "They get a sense of reward from participating."
Azuri Gonzalez, director of UTEP's Center for Civic Engagement, said having a Lions Club on campus is mutually beneficial to the organization and the students. The name brings instant credibility and the students bring their vitality.
"Their participation sends a message of lifelong commitment to community service," Gonzalez said.
The Lions are one of several campus organizations with philanthropic goals. UTEP's Student Engagement and Leadership Center also lists Alpha Phi Omega, ONE Campus Challenge, Miners for St. Jude, Students United Way and SPARKS as groups interested in community service, which is a metric used by Washington Monthly magazine to rank the nation's best academic institutions. The publication rated UTEP as one of its Top 10 institutions for the second year in a row in 2014.
The establishment of the UTEP club is a source of pride and excitement to Gil Blancas, the Lions' district governor for West Texas. He earned his bachelor's in business administration from UTEP in 1974 and is director of Medicare and business development at University Medical Center.
He said the enthusiasm and technological prowess of the UTEP members strengthen the organization that is dotted with professionals and retirees in the fields of law, business, education, medicine, the military and a host of other professions. Prospective members are invited by current members to join what Blancas called "a large consulting network" that often serves as an unofficial employment agency.
He said Lions Clubs are a great place to learn, practice and demonstrate leadership and for college members to share their talents, commitment and enthusiasm with fellow Lions, many of whom keep track of the new talent for their workplaces.
"I applaud the students for their energy, for staying together, staying strong and thinking beyond themselves," Blancas said.
The UTEP Lions Club meets at 6 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at different locations. Information: 915-487-8068.
The University of Texas at El Paso
College of Engineering
Engineering Building Room A148
500 W University Ave
El Paso, TX 79968
Phone: (915) 747-6444
Fax: (915) 747-5437