Past President of Millis Lions Elected Mass. Lions District 33K Governor

J.D. O’Gara
Issue Date: 
July, 2018
Article Body: 

Debbie Hayes can’t say enough about Lions Club International. The recently elected Massachusetts District 33K Lions Governor, who will step into the role on July 3rd, lights up when she talks about her experience being a Lion.
“I’ve met a lot of people in this organization,” says Hayes, who joined the Millis Lions Club in 2010, has served as that club’s president from 2014-2016, and was named Massachusetts District 33K Lion of the Year on June 4th. “The number one thing that has kept me so engaged, other than the mission, is that the people that I’ve met are the most dedicated, completely loving, giving individuals, and I have made friends with these individuals. I can’t imagine them now not in my life.”
Hayes will be joined by Medway Lion’s Club member Dawn Rice-Norton as the 1st Vice District 33K Governor, Dr. Deb Wayne, of Malden Lion’s Club, as the 2nd Vice District Governor, and Donna Merrick, from Plainville Lion’s Club, as the Cabinet Secretary Treasurer for the District.
Hayes points to the wealth of time members put in to help others in need. Many, she says, take their own time and money to travel to other countries to help vaccinate those in need or distribute eyeglasses.
“They’re so committed to the mission and the act of service, they sacrifice personally to help those that have less than them,” says Hayes. “Ultimately, that’s the best form of a legacy anyone and leave to someone else on this planet, to make someone else’s life better who cannot repay you.”
In Millis, Hayes is part of an executive board of about 15 people.
“The club receives requests for suport and the board votes on how much money we’re going to send them,” says Hayes, who adds that the group receives calls from the schools for help for individuals that need help such as eye exam’s and/or eyeglasses or hearing aids. When one young man had an accident that left him using a wheelchair, for example, the Millis Lions donated money and volunteer hours to install a wheelchair ramp at his home, and they also installed one at St. Thomas Large Hall., revamped the town animal shelter and rebuilt the porch for the American Legion. “We love giving back to the citizens of Millis,” says Hayes. She sees her top responsibility “to be the cheerleader for all of the clubs and all of our members. It’s easy – they do such great things. They’re in their communities, and they’re helping people in need.”
Hayes expects to visit each of the 48 clubs in her district, which is one of five in the state, attending their events and promoting goodwill between the Lions and their communities. She will also take on the fiscal responsibility of making sure money collected by the Lions gets distributed to various organizations it supports, such as the Carroll Center for the Blind, Mass Lions Eye Research, Fidelco Dogs, and NEADS, to name a few.
Hayes says that as a representative of this group, she aims to put her best foot forward to deliver the message of the work that the Lions Club does. “We try to encourage members to join,” says Hayes. “One of the misconceptions is that all Lions do is vision and blindness, when that is only a fifth or sixth of what we do. There’s a huge youth component. We support a youth international exchange camp, and the Lions Quest, a workshop and leadership skills development program for kids. We support the LEOS, and personally, for my district, I’m leading Teddies for Tots, collecting new stuffed animals for kids who are inpatient or at home undergoing chemotherapy.” The Lions also sponsors an annual Peace Poster and Speech contest, says Hayes, and provides vaccinations, health screenings for blindness, and support in Diabetes and youth cancer research.
On top of supporting various children’s and health causes, the group pushes environmental issues, such as cleanups and tree plantings. The Massachusetts District also participates in Rise against Hunger each spring, packaging 12,000 meals in 2 hours to help feed hungry people. Each Lions group also supports charities and organizations in their communities. Money collected from bottle and can recycling by Millis and Medway, for example, supports causes in their communities.
“People interested in Lions Clubs can join to volunteer with a program, or they can initiate a new program,” says Hayes.
“The number one thing about Lions is it offers leadership skills by way of online programs and educational training sessions so that you can hone leadership skills that you carry over into your professional and personal life. There’s an opportunity for anyone who gets involved in Lions to grow and develop.”
As for being a woman in leadership of her district, Hayes takes it in stride.
“Women weren’t allowed to be Lions until 1986,” says Hayes, “but Massachusetts has always been at the forefront of women in leadership in Lions. Of the five governors coming in in Massachusetts, two are women, and there have been years where there’s been three or four. I think it’s been great in giving women coming up role models. This year, our 101st year, will have the very first woman to lead Lions International, ever. It’s quite on achievement”
As of early June, the Millis Lions had 56 members, and the Medway Lions had 51 members, with 1,850 Lions in District 33K, says Hayes. If you would like to learn more about the Lions Club in Millis, visit