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Picayune Lion’s Club comes to an end after 76 years

The Picayune chapter of the Lion’s Club held its final meeting in February after 76 years of helping the community.

Chapter President Brandon Rhodes said he thinks the biggest effect on the community will be the end of the club purchasing eyeglasses for people who could not afford them.

“It’s a sad thing to see go,” said Rhodes.

One of Rhodes’ most memorable experiences in the club was when members visited schools to help provide eye tests to students.

“I still remember one of the first eye exams I did. There was a little girl and she couldn’t hardly read any of the letters on the machine, so we referred her to an eye exam and paid for it,” said Rhodes.

The girl’s teacher called to thank members of the club later, because after receiving the eyeglasses the girl went from struggling in school to succeeding, Rhodes said. No one had realized that her vision was what was holding her back.

“When you did those, it felt like you were making a really big difference helping a kid,” said Rhodes.

Disbanding the Picayune chapter of the civic club was due to a decline in membership in recent years, said Jack Weiss, who has been a member for 20 years. Unable to recruit new members, the club’s numbers dwindled down to six active members.

“People were good to me and I thought that I should be good to them, but apparently nobody thinks like that anymore. I don’t know,” said Weiss.

The club’s motto is “We serve,” and in addition to providing eye glasses to those in need, the group gave bi-annual scholarships to local high school students, advocated for diabetes awareness and donated money to local organizations, said Weiss.

“We serve, and for 76 years we served the community of Picayune and Pearl River County. We’re proud of that. We wish we could continue, but we can’t, not with the membership that we have. We’re a bunch of old people,” said Weiss.

The club still has remaining funds that will be given away, and a few hundred pair of eyeglasses that need to be shipped to an eyeglass center. Some of the money has been allocated to fund scholarships for local students and the rest will go to the Mississippi Lion’s Foundation, said Rhodes.

The Lion’s Club has already donated its banners and memorabilia to the Lower Pearl River Valley Transportation Museum, said Weiss, who has also given away all of his Lion’s Club items.

“I have cleaned out and given away everything I had. We have nothing left but memories,” he said.