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Woman holds Lions Club membership post

February 05, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - During Cartha Johnson's tenure on the Frederick County Commission for Women, she once worked a booth proclaiming the benefits of Lions Club membership for women.

"So many women didn't know women could be Lions," Johnson said.

Now in her first year as District 22-W women's membership development chair, Johnson, 59, is in an ideal spot to promote Lions Club membership for women.

Before 1987, a separate organization of Lioness Clubs allowed women to participate in the goals of Lions International while keeping them from equal membership. That year, Lions became the first major service organization to welcome women into its ranks as equals.

Lions International is the largest service organization in the world, with more than 1.3 million members in 200 countries and geographic areas around the world.

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In 1999, Johnson and her husband, Robert, were charter members of a new Lions Club in Jefferson, Md.

"I was second vice president and then later president," she said.

Now, Cartha Johnson is secretary of that club and her husband is president. When the district governor asked Cartha Johnson to be the membership chair for the district, she agreed.

Despite the fact that women are the fastest-growing demographic in Lions, many women still do not realize that they can join their local Lions Club, Cartha Johnson said.

To counter that, four years ago Lions International established a women's membership development and participation program to further the recruitment of women into the organization.

As part of that initiative, a chair has been appointed within each Lions organizational district throughout the country.

Today, women are active at every level of the Lions organization, from local club officers to the international director.

"Within the local District 22-W, which includes 59 clubs, women serve in all capacities at the local club level," Cartha Johnson said.

At the district level, women serve as committee chairs and have filled every district officer position, she said. At the highest level, two women have served as district governor.

"Our next district governor will be a woman," she said.

In addition to its international goals, at the local level Lions Clubs provide vision care for individuals who cannot afford treatment, conduct preschool eye screening, sponsor youth groups and carry out other projects that benefit local communities.

A native of Fairmont, W.Va., Cartha Johnson has a picture framing and matting business in her home. Her husband, who retired after 30 years with Verizon, also has a home-based business.

Anyone interested in joining a Lions Club or who would like more information may contact Cartha Johnson by e-mail at carthajohnson@aol.com or by calling 301-371-9129.

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