The power of giving back: Milpitas Executive Lions Club’s impact on the community

The power of giving back: Milpitas Executive Lions Club’s impact on the community
By Eric ShapiroMay 22, 2024

For the past 22 years, the Milpitas Executive Lions Club has been devoted to volunteerism and community involvement, with a particular emphasis on people’s health-related needs.

According to the Lions Club’s website, “Lions are men and women dedicated to serving those in need, whether in their own community or halfway around the world. Membership in Lions club provides people with the opportunity to meet and work with other individuals in a spirit of fellowship, striving toward the common goal of helping those in need.”

In 1917, businessman Melvin Jones had the idea of starting a club that would be dedicated to serving others. He founded Lions Club International, and today, over 100 years later, it has grown to include 1.4 million members in 49,000 clubs across nearly every country on the planet.

In 2002, the Milpitas Executive Lions Club was formed, with its first charter members including people like current Milpitas Mayor Carmen Montano and Ray Maglalang, a former Milpitas Planning Commissioner who has served in various Club positions for the past two decades.

In an interview with The Milpitas Beat, current Lions Club President MariCris Benitez, who has been involved with the Club since 2008, explained, “It’s very important because we have a lot of these community service projects and charitable projects that we are involved with. We help the youth, we help the disabled, we help the elders, as well as the homeless.”

Among the Club’s primary focuses is helping those with poor vision. At a recent health fair for the unhoused, Lions Club volunteers showed up with a van from which they conducted vision tests (as well as hearing, glucose, body mass index, and other tests). Likewise, they are active in assisting people with diabetes, since that condition can lead to vision loss or impairment.

From alleviating hunger to helping heal the environment, The Milpitas Executive Lions Club has become a city staple, not only providing volunteer resources, but hosting fundraising events and collecting donations on an ongoing basis to support a wide variety of causes.

Addressing childhood cancer has emerged as another signature Lions Club concern. Last September, the Club held a fundraiser for children living in a farmland community who are struggling with cancer. As a result of inhaling varied chemicals and fertilizers, farming populations tend to be particularly vulnerable to cancer. The Lions Club provided $2,800 in van maintenance so the afflicted children could go back and forth to and from Stanford for their medical appointments.

“We have a lot of memorable events,” Benitez said.

Just last month, the Lions Club orchestrated the shipment of 10,000 hunger packs overseas, to assist those in need of food. “We also send out Christmas baskets to families,” Benitez explained, “and emergency kits that they need.”

She went on to add, “I love doing community service. Volunteering helps a lot.” With a laugh, she explained that “Volunteers don’t have the time, but they have the heart to serve people.”

Back in college, Benitez got early volunteering experience by helping out patients and staff at a children’s hospital. Before then, as a teenager, she was active in helping out at health fairs. “My mom was an educator; she was a schoolteacher. My dad was also in education,” she shared. “That was my exposure to doing community work.”

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