Lions: Pride Of The North Shore

The North Shore is a better place, thanks to the volunteer work done by the Lions Club, from building bus stops to planting gardens

You may not hear the roar of Kauai North Shore Lions Club members Gary Pacheco, Bob Robertson and Don McConnell. But their voluntary contributions to the North Shore amount to thunderous rumblings with projects such as the construction of bus shelters and refurbishing public facilities.

KNSLC members also make a difference in the community by supporting keiki. The organization holds free youth vision and hearing clinics and helps students in other ways, such as Santa’s (Pacheco) yearly visit to Kilauea Elementary School toting goodie bags.

“Seeing the kids light up with Santa, it makes you really proud that you’re doing something for them,” says Pacheco. “The children are our future leaders.”

Whenever North Shore schools are in need – whether it’s picnic benches or assistance with their libraries – the Lions are there to help. The club even provides scholarships each year to students pursuing higher education. Last year it awarded a total of $11,500 to North Shore residents.

“Whatever we can do to encourage kids to study hard and promote schooling, that’s what we’re here for,” says Pacheco.

Like his comrades, Pacheco aims to create a sense of family through his humanitarian endeavors.

He attributes this desire to his Kilauea upbringing during the plantation era.

“It was like a giant family,” recalls Pacheco, who once worked for Kilauea Sugar Plantation. “I feel like if I can promote a giant family with the newcomers, that would make me happy.”

The Kapaa High School graduate is one of the founding members of KNSLC, and he continues to promote family values by participating in community improvement projects and serving as the organization’s treasurer.

“You cannot grumble if you don’t participate,” he says.

He started the club after realizing there was a need for improvements on the North Shore. He visited with Kapaa Lions Club members, gathered other interested parties and in 1982 held the first KNSLC meeting in the former Makai Golf Course clubhouse.

“We figured we needed one on the North Shore; maybe we can do some good,” says Pacheco.

Now there are five clubs around the island – North Shore (Anahola to Haena), Kapaa, East Kauai (Lihue), Koloa and West Kauai (the oldest Lions club on the island).

One of KNSLC’s first projects was building a bus shelter on Kilauea Road. Since then, they have constructed shelters on Kuhio Highway in Kilauea and Princeville.

In addition, they are responsible for helping those in need acquire eyeglasses, and they regularly contribute to a Lions Club eye bank, where people can gain assistance with procedures such as cornea transplants.

“I feel very humbled to be a part of this,” says Robertson.

When Robertson moved to the island 10 years ago, it was his goal to become part of the community by making a beneficial contribution – and he couldn’t think of a better way than by joining KNSLC. During his years as a member, he has helped with projects such as planting a garden at the Church of the Pacific, which grows produce for its food bank. He also enjoys the KNSLC annual pancake and hula benefit breakfast held April 15.

McConnell, president of KNSLC, also is honored to be part of the organization whose members not only make an impact locally, but roar cross international borders. He proudly dons a yellow vest on the day of our interview and points out the various Lions Club pins from around the world that he has accumulated throughout his years of service.

“These are really conversation starters,” he says about the colorful adornments on his vest. “When people from other clubs come to visit, it allows us to trade stories.”

The Lions Club, which was founded originally in Chicago in 1917, is the largest service organization in the world with some 1.3 million members and more than 40,000 clubs in 200 countries.

“Within all of us we have a general denominator, and that’s helping the community,” says Robertson. “We do it for the gift and not the give back.”

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