The Anniston Lions Club won recognition Thursday as the state’s top Lions group, due largely to local members’ work on tornado recovery in Jacksonville.

“The morning after the storm, they were assessing the damage, and we all realized people were going to need a lot of help,” said April Pearson, president of the civic club.

Officials from the state Lions Club presented Pearson and other club members with the Roderick Beddow Sr. Club of the Year Award at the group’s Thursday meeting in Anniston.

Founded early in the 20th century, the Lions typically focus their charitable work on curing blindness and treating poor eyesight. Pearson said the Anniston group’s 24 members decided they needed to shift temporarily to storm recovery after the March 19 tornado damaged more than 500 buildings in Jacksonville.

“We started collecting cleaning supplies, inflatable mattresses, blankets and other things we knew people would need,” Pearson said. The Oxford and Weaver branches of the Lions teamed up with them for that work, Pearson said. Later, the group began assembling backpacks full of school supplies for kids displaced by the storm.

The group regularly hosts eyesight screenings and works with the nonprofit St. Michael’s Health Clinic in west Anniston to help people get eyeglasses, Pearson said. The group this year bought an optical scanner that club members — without formal medical training — can use to screen people and tell them whether they need to see an eye doctor. The group raises money largely by hosting charity footraces including the Run for Sight 8K.

Pearson said that like most civic clubs, the Lions have found that recruiting new members has become harder over the years.

“We seem to be struggling to recruit younger members,” she said. “Everyone’s so busy.”

People interested in joining can contact the club through its Facebook group, Pearson said. 

The Anniston club was chartered July 29, 1938, according to news archives, in a banquet ceremony attended by some 200 Lions Club members from nearby towns and cities of Alabama.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.