Guest column: Collecting money -- and human interest stories

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By Marion Nicolay

Marco Island

The Marco Island Lions Club signed up for 90-minute shifts to solicit money outside Wal-Mart on Collier Boulevard again this year on the day after Thanksgiving.

The weather was absolutely perfect, and we started with high hopes.

I sat there wearing sunglasses, holding a white cane and a plastic collection bucket, asking people as they went in, “Would you like to donate some money to the Lions before you spend it all?”

That elicited laughs from the customers, but almost no donations.

They had a variety of strange answers for me, such as:

“Thank you” (well, why thank me? I have not done anything for you today).

“I don’t have any cash’’ (the common one — they carry credit cards instead).

“Catch me on the way out’’ (sometimes they really mean it).

“But I live on Marco’’ (well, so do I and what difference does that make?).

“I will wait and let my son do it’’ (a real puzzler).

“I gave at the office’’ (lady, we do not collect there).

The funniest one: “I didn’t bring a thing with me.’’ This was from a young lady in a bikini who apparently forgot most of her clothes as well. What was she doing there with no purse anyway?

I have learned to say “thank you’’ in Japanese, French, Spanish, Arabic, Italian and German. This year, I practiced asking for money in Spanish as taught by a friend, and occasionally it helped, but I hesitated to offend people who did not understand me. I usually contented myself with saying “Feliz Navidad’’ at what I hoped were appropriate moments.

I hope our efforts did better than the last two years’, which would be astounding considering the state of the economy, but I won’t know until the final count is in.

There is a legend in Collier County that some good soul drops a gold coin into a Salvation Army kettle every year, and we hope it will happen to us. You never know.

I have noticed over the years that the best-dressed people pass us by without a glance and often the poorest-looking people turn and drop in a dollar bill. So go figure.

* * *

The Lions Club can arrange for a free or low-cost eye exam from a cooperating physician in the area when the need arises, and can then underwrite the cost of a new prescription.

We collect old or unused eyeglasses and hearing aids and distribute them to various communities in this state and abroad where people might have none at all. You may have donated such items yourself in the past.

But our work doesn’t stop there. We provide financial support for the Southeastern Guide Dogs organization in Palmetto as well as to the Florida Lions Conklin Center in Daytona, a residential training facility for multi-handicapped blind people. We also help out with National Camps for the Blind in Florida and other states and Canada. We contribute to the Lions Eye Bank in Miami and Sight First, which works with national disasters.

Locally we donate to Lighthouse of Collier, which provides screening for pre-school children and adults for sight, hearing and diabetes — the most prevalent cause of blindness in the world. Sometimes we travel to Naples and Immokalee for joint projects.

There is more. We often work through the Lions Foundation when surgery is needed by an indigent. We support the Radio Reading Service, which provides a spoken version of newspapers and magazines.

You too can roar like a Lion. We welcome all interested people to our monthly dinner meetings. Call Club President (King Lion) Bill Horton at 239-642-8928 for details.

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