The collage of colors and symbols of unity and harmony filled the back of a room inside the Deptford Free Public Library on Veterans Day. The more than two-dozen posters were both artistic and heartfelt.
Perhaps best of all, they were the creations of pre-high school-aged students throughout Deptford Township.
The Deptford Lions Club received 29 entries for the 32nd annual Lions International Peace Poster Contest prior to the Nov. 7 deadline. The activity encourages the children (ages 11 to 13) to use their artistic abilities to express what peace means to them.
The judges evaluate each poster based on artistic merit, originality, and the expression of the year’s theme. For 2018-19, the theme is “Kindness Matters.”
“There’s a different theme each year, but the overall thing is peace, around the world,” said JoAnn McCormick, the secretary and treasurer of the Deptford Lions Club and the Leo Club advisor. “The idea for them is to creatively express their vision of peace.”
The Lions will vote on finalists and winners (with gift card awards given to each). Deptford’s winning poster will undergo subsequent judging at the district level, then through multiple districts, with the judging continuing until an overall international winner is crowned in early 2019.
The international grand prize winner receives an award, $5,000, and a trip to the award ceremony, while 23 merit winners each receive a $500 prize and certificate of achievement. Last year, Lions International received more than 600,000 entries.
Deptford’s local student artists began their work at the end of September. The entries came in earlier this month from five schools: Monongahela Middle, Shady Lane Elementary, Lake Tract School, Oak Valley Elementary, and Good Intent Elementary.
“We have 29 submissions – that’s a good response for our first year,” McCormick said. “I’m going to use social media to promote it. So once a week I’ll post one and let the parents see them and comment.”
The annual Peace Poster event is just one of the ways the Deptford Lions Club, which has been around since 1951, has been working with local youth. It also collects Toys for Tots, supports such organizations as Shriner’s Hospital, Camp Marcella, and Autism Speaks N.J., places collection boxes for used eyeglasses in each school and at the library, donates tickets to Deptford’s basketball teams for the Al Carino All-Star Basketball Scholarship Game, runs a Lions for Literacy program, and presents a $500 award to a graduating senior who exhibits service in their community.
The Lions took their involvement to another level in 2017 when they opened their own Leo Club, an organization specifically for young adults 12-18 years old.
“I just retired as a teacher after over 30 years, and I had been trying to for years to establish a Leo Club,” McCormick said. “A Leo Club teaches leadership, experience and opportunity – that’s what ‘L.E.O.’ stands for. And for young kids nowadays with such a technology-based world, I know I’m getting old, but with community service I know it’s difficult to get people out and do things for other people. It’s so easy to push a button and say, ‘Hey, I’ll donate $10 or $20.’ And that’s wonderful; I’m not knocking it. But I just feel like we need to instill in children to spend time helping others.”
Added fellow Lion Walt Park Jr.: “Money is necessary, but it’s the application of that money (that takes time and effort). This helps them learn that. … Let’s get them young, when you can really make an impression on them. And try to help them spread the word.”
The Deptford Lions Club primary service areas of focus are the environment, diabetes, hunger, childhood cancer, and vision. Their regular meetings take place every first and third Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. The Deptford Pride Leo Club meets on the third Thursday of each month from 4:30 to 5:30 at the Deptford Free Public Library.
You can also visit their website (Deptfordlions.com) and Facebook page.
“People should get involved because you get a great feeling helping people. And it’s really an easy way to give back to the community,” said Bob Freidel, who has been with the Lions since 1988. “The most important thing about the Lions is that every dollar raised from the public goes into some sort of service for the public.”