This article was written by Lion Jim Cain and Amanda Dobbs
The Camden Lions harnessed the power of communication and collaboration during the COVID-19 crisis. A little over a year ago, all of our lives were disrupted by this historical pandemic, the world banded together and stayed home to keep each other safe. Though we couldn’t be together physically as a Lion’s family, we continued to connect virtually to brainstorm creative ways to serve. COVID created a new set of challenges for our community and we decided to start to form partnerships offering our resources and name to launch new charitable organizations we can also volunteer to work at in our community. As we say, “where there is a need, there is a Lion.”
Camden Lions members in our community, empowered with the knowledge of the resources and network built by Lions International, were able to collaborate and network on the Northside. In August 2020, a community member wanting to start a nonprofit came to our club looking to partner with a community tutoring school for low-income families. Our club decided to partner and provide sponsorship, allowing her to take advantage of our insurance coverage, and what is now known as the Camden Collective was able to open its doors to provide support to the community during this challenging time. This wonderful organization provides free tutoring (both digital and in person) with the intention to continue closing the learning gap that has been created during distance learning. The organization has since grown with additional financial and program sponsors and has now branched out to provide weekly food support to our community, giving away free boxes of food every Wednesday from 4-5:30 p.m., with plans to further expand community support programming in the future. The Camden Lions are proud to be the original sponsor of the Camden Collective and we are excited to partner in the future. Some of our members now volunteer with both programs.
In this community, the combination of the events surrounding George Floyd’s death and the consequences of the pandemic have left a lasting imprint on our youth. Community leaders have been working to find ways to engage teenagers, to keep them safe and to help them feel supported during this time. In January 2021 the Camden Lions were able to collaborate with leaders from our local neighborhood organizations to assist in the creation of the Northside Youth Crew. We connected them with our Leos in Action club as the sponsoring organization through us providing some LEO’s as volunteers. Now, almost weekly, the crew is out serving the community, providing snow removal and yard work to those in need in our neighborhood.
Another exciting partnership was just formed after this last month’s (March) Camden Lion’s business meeting. Our club has voted to accept the opportunity to sponsor Break the Cycle, a revolutionary education program that will cut a trail into the bicycle community for underserved people. Along with sponsoring Break the Cycle, we are excited to help make this program accessible to all by providing free childcare to the community during classes. This program currently provides four scholarships a year to the country’s top bicycle mechanic education program and will begin providing additional free bicycle education opportunities for our community this summer. Over the course of the next decade, this program will be holding open the gates into the cycling industry to at least 1000 underserved community members.
With the second year of the COVID epidemic just beginning, we are still trying to find new and creative ways to engage our community safely while we smile and chat about the possibilities of an August club picnic together during our monthly Zoom meeting. We currently meet by Zoom every 2nd Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. We’ll have to wait until this pandemic is over to resume our monthly social gatherings at a local eatery every 4th Wednesday of the month. The club is looking forward to getting this pandemic behind us so we can also get back to the community events like Live on the Drive and others we sponsor that the public is familiar with seeing us at. We are dedicated to community involvement and will continue to look for creative solutions to serve. We are always looking for new members and want to get more diversity in our club to better reflect North Minneapolis. If you would like to join the Camden Lions contact the Lion’s President Jim Cain at 763-232-0790.