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Foundation takes a bite out of need

This week, Lions Club Foundation’s Thanksgiving bundle opened up, creating a uniquely Hood River cornucopia of grants to local causes.

The 33 grants address elderly nutrition, health and safety equipment, toys for children, furniture for a women’s shelter, and other visible needs.

But the biggest grant from Lions will help with something that can’t be seen. A $10,339 grant to Hood River Fire Department will pay for the department’s thermal imaging camera — which sees in the dark and smoke.

“The camera can definitely be a lifesaver. It’s been credited with saving lives,” said Devon Wells, Hood River fire marshal. The camera “takes heat pictures,” Wells explained. “You can look right through smoke and see a crystal-clear black-and-white picture of a firefighter or victim and know right where they are.” The camera can also detect fire smoldering unseen inside walls, and to help find people in search and rescue operations, by detecting heat sources in the dark. The camera will be the second of its kind in Hood River County; Odell Fire Department already owns one.

Schools, the hospital, the Hood River County Museum, the county library and other public entities share in the wealth. So do fledgling groups such as Cascade Locks Interested in Kids, Big Brother/Big Sister Program, Helping Hands Against Violence, First Book, and Hood River Christmas Project.

As Bob Johnson, director of The Next Door, Inc., put it, “The kinds of things they (Lions Foundation) do locally aren’t matched anywhere in the state. It’s a local organization giving money to local projects in an amount that is certainly not something that has any peers anywhere else in the state. It’s quite remarkable for a small community to have this kind of charitable capacity.”

Johnson said the $3,927 grant to New Parent Services for parent education materials is “an example of something that allows us to reach the entire community.” The grant will pay for Spanish-language materials.

“It allows us to fully implement the best practices research-based things in that area that, were it not for the Lions Club, we wouldn’t be able,” Johnson said. “In the case of Nuestra Communidad Sana, (Our Healthy Community) they have the only domestic violence program specifically designed for the Latino community in this area, and given the hard times that have hit this community and the Spanish-speaking community more so, being able to continue to operate this domestic violence program is one of those things that really makes a community whole.” Johnson said there are many needs in the Hispanic community that would go unaddressed were it not for the Lions Club.

The Lions Foundation is the largest single charity in Hood River, its annual coffers averaging around $115,000. Hood River United Way isn’t far behind, with its 2002 campaign goal of $110,000. United Way volunteers have spent hours this fall meeting with businesses and other donor groups in their campaign toward that goal. Some overlap exists, but one of the niceties of the Lions grant program is that it either augments United Way or serves groups it does not.

The Foundation distributes a $2.1 million gift from an anonymous donor. For administering this generosity, the Lions deserve a hearty roar of gratitude for their sharing of the annual fund. Beyond that, the Lions’ list — it starts on page A1 — provides an excellent opportunity to review the type of needs in Hood River’s communities, and a wide glimpse at the works that need doing all year round.

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