The Brookings-Harbor Lions Club celebrated its 50th anniversary Saturday with an eye to the future.

About 70 Lions from clubs as far away as Sutherlin and Coos Bay gathered for a dinner at the Brookings Elks Lodge to celebrate the Brookings-Harbor club's 50 years of service.

Club secretary Frances Johns Kern gave a brief overview of those 50 years, but since most of the current members had moved to Brookings comparatively recently, few could remember much of the club's history.

A few of the club's past presidents were in attendance, however, including Gerald Ross and Elmer Hitchcock.

Kern said when the Brookings Harbor Lions Club was chartered in 1953, it was one of the first service clubs in the area.

The club had 29 charter members, but was down to 23 members by 1961. It has about the same number of members today.

Lions Clubs everywhere focus on vision, and the Brookings-Harbor club is no exception. It has helped provide testing, glasses and operations for 50 years.

Kern said the club's history showed that it used to put on a Halloween parade, contributed to Peewee Baseball, and provided some scholarships to Brookings-Harbor High School students.

The club also helped provide blood pressure testing, diabetes awareness, and services for the hearing impaired.

The Oregon Lions Mobile Screening Unit offers free services to Curry County residents each year.

The club got a tangible piece of history back Saturday night when Dan Nachel, of Dan's Photo, sent a package containing the club's original bell.

Club Vice President Phil Cox said the bell disappeared 25 years ago during a visitation by members of the Bandon Lions Club.

No one knew how Nachel ended up with it, or how long he had kept it, but after closing his photo business, he asked Cox to present it to the club. Nachel, perhaps wisely, was out of town Saturday.

The Lions quickly put the past behind them and welcomed a motivational speech by Ed Gear, international director for the Lions in 1997 and 1998.

Cox introduced him with a dictionary definition of a gear: a device to transmit motion from one part to another for a specific purpose. Gear's specific purpose, said Cox, was Lionism.

Lionism, said Gear, meant making a difference. andquot;If we're a Lions Club, and we're not making a difference, then we're not truly a Lions Club.andquot;

He said one of the first differences made by the Brookings-Harbor Lions Club was to move the city library to a new building.

Gear wished he could line up the thousands of people whose lives had been changed by the charter members of the Brookings-Harbor club.

He said the main task of each of the 44,000 Lions Clubs in the world is to serve the community it is based in.

andquot;The most important task,andquot; said Gear, andquot;is to serve the community. Those clubs that lose that focus go out of business.andquot;

He warned Lions to not live on their laurels for long.

andquot;Look at the real needs in your community and be flexible,andquot; he advised. andquot;Your past successes may not be relevant today.andquot;

Every Lion at the dinner was also given a pin saying andquot;We Serve.andquot;

Gear said, andquot;We serve better together.andquot; He said the local Lions Club works with Lions International to provide services to Brookings-Harbor with the mobile screening unit.

He also advised the club to join with other service clubs and organizations to provide needed services to the community.

andquot;Lionism gives us the opportunity to make a difference in our world now,andquot; said Gear. andquot;Look at the needs in your community and figure out collectively how to solve them. Focus on needs that are not being met.andquot;

He called fellowship andquot;the glue of Lionism,andquot;

andquot;Not just coming together for meetings,andquot; said Gear, andquot;but becoming a team in the truest sense.andquot;

Internationally, said Gear, andquot;Lionism can do what governments cannot do.andquot;

He said the Lions are teaching people in China to take care of each other, instead of relying on the government to do it. He said the Lions can't put clubs in as fast as the Chinese want them.

andquot;We are literally changing the culture and society of China,andquot; said Gear. andquot;Lionism is more powerful than any government in this world.andquot;

He said optimism is the key to achieving such change. andquot;Think about how we can do it, not why we can't,andquot; he said. andquot;Look at how you can do those things.andquot;

Gear also said he was glad to see Brookings Mayor Bob Hagbom at the dinner. He said it helped symbolize the strong connection between Lions and the community they serve.

Hagbom gave the welcoming speech and said, andquot;All I can bring to you is great weather. I have an in with the weatherman.andquot;

After a couple of weeks of unrelenting sunshine in February, no one questioned his claim.

Gear, who was visiting the Brookings-Harbor club for the first time, called the drive down andquot;unbelievable.andquot;

Thanks to the Lions, he made the drive back with an ice-chest full of andquot;right off the boatandquot; crabs.

Not many Lions went away from the dinner empty-handed either. Prizes from a stuffed lion to Lions Club vests to gold nuggets were raffled off.