Former Lions Chief Stays Busy
BY FLORENCE GILKESON
Sid Scruggs has swapped his suit and tie for dungarees, hardhats and safety vests.
The newly retired president of Lions International has segued into the chairmanship of Lions Clubs International Foundation, the charitable arm of the organization. His year as international president carried him to 43 countries and six provinces in China.
As such, the Woodlake resident is traveling almost as much these days, but his work is more basic and involves more muscle and sweat.
His latest mission carried Sid and his wife, Judy, to Joplin, Mo., to work beside fellow Lions to help tornado victims clear their property to make way for rehabilitation and reconstruction - a massive task expected to take five years for a return to anything approaching normality.
"It was surreal," Scruggs said of the scene in Joplin. "It looked like a war zone, a mass bombing."
The tornado that struck the Missouri city in May cleared a path half a mile wide and stayed on the ground for almost 14 miles. It killed 160, left 50,000 homeless, destroyed five schools and many businesses, and severely damaged a hospital. More than 7,500 children were without schools. It was the most destructive tornado in recent history.
"The closest we saw to this type of devastation was the bush fires in Australia," said Scruggs in remembering his travels the previous year.
By the time Sid and Judy Scruggs reached Joplin in late July, most of the major relief agencies were long gone. But the local Lions were still working at the local level.
The foundation has donated $60,000 for Joplin relief, and individual Lions Clubs have donated another $80,000.
"It's just a drop in the bucket," Scruggs said of his observations of the disaster-struck city's needs.
One of their first tasks in Joplin was a shopping spree for Lafayette House, a local haven for victims of domestic violence.
The nonprofit has experienced a 66 percent increase in number of clients as a result of trauma associated with the tornado.
Seven Joplin Lions Club members were among those who lost their homes, but the club reached out to them and as many others as they could reach.
Scruggs joined local Lions helping one homeowner to clear his destroyed house and haul the debris to the curb for pickup by Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel. They were able to salvage one kitchen table, two chairs still intact, a damaged chair, a small cabinet, the water heater and a few DVDs. That was all. Everything else was damaged beyond repair.
Within four hours the site was cleared, the remains of the house leveled by a private damage response company from Pennsylvania, owned and operated by a dedicated man who barely breaks even on this type of work. The company also cleared an area for a helicopter landing pad for rescue services.
It was one of 28 damaged houses that Joplin Lions Club members removed as part of the tornado relief effort. It involved raking, shoveling and clearing debris, as well as salvage.
FEMA had just begun to haul in mobile homes for displaced families when the Scruggses arrived in Joplin. Although FEMA will pick up the tons of damage debris, the agency confines this service to material left at curbside. It's up to property owners to pick up the remains of their homes and haul them to the curb, a task that keeps the Pennsylvania ompany busy.
While in Joplin, the Scruggses visited the Lions Eye Center and bought clothing for Children's Haven, which has experienced a 100 percent increase in clientele since the tornado.
The Scruggses were moved by the sight of a pile of teddy bears collected by a Lions Club member. The Lion had picked up the stuffed animals from the disaster area, had shipped them out of state to his granddaughter, who washed them, dried and fluffed them in her dryer and returned them for distribution to Joplin tots left without their teddy bears.
In Joplin, the Lions worked side by side with AmeriCorps.
One piece of good fortune lies in the fact that both Children's Haven and Lafayette House are located outside the tornado disaster area, making it possible for these programs to continue serving needy clients.
It also helped that damage was largely confined above ground and most infrastructure was intact. Most areas had water and sewer service and natural gas.
As Lions Foundation chairman, Scruggs will spend almost as much time traveling around the world as he did as president.
Later this month he will return to Haiti, where the Lions organization has already pumped $6 million into recovery efforts. Lions have also committed to building 600 houses there.
"It has been so slow getting government approval for such things as water and sewer and other infrastructure there," Scruggs said.
His new duties have included a visit to Alabama, an area that was heavily damaged by an April tornado. Lions have given $250,000 to that project.
Scruggs was back in North Carolina earlier this summer for a Lions International board meeting in Raleigh, then traveled to Croatia and Slovenia.
In agreeing to lead Lions International, Scruggs committed four years of his life to the charitable service program. Two years were served as second and first vice presidents, then a year as president, followed by a fourth year as head of the foundation.
Since its formation in 1968, the foundation has donated $710 million to humanitarian projects around the world. The foundation provided $18 million to Japan after the earthquake-generated tsunami, $3 million to China following earthquakes, and $15 million to Southeast Asia after that devastating tsunami.
In September, he will go back to New Zealand to view progress made since twin earthquakes damaged the area around Christchurch in June. The foundation gave $250,000 to that relief effort.
As foundation chairman, Scruggs is visiting areas where donations have been made to check on progress and to join local Lions in cleanup and other relief projects. He also checks to see new areas where the Lions can help.
Later this year he will travel to Iceland to witness the volcano that erupted last year, causing a lengthy interruption of travel across the Atlantic. While there, he will meet with the president of Iceland.
Foothold in China
During his year as president, Scruggs met the presidents of Lebanon, Ethiopia, Zambia and Kenya, the former premier of Israel, two sultans in Malaysia, and the ambassadors or charges d'affaires in most other countries.
But perhaps nothing pleased him as much as the experience in China, where he was awarded a medal for Lions work with the disabled in 2009. Lions International also helped out in a series of earthquakes, including Lions Clubs in Sweden, which dispatched aircraft with blue and white striped tents to house the homeless and provide shelter for relief stations. (The Swedish Lions likewise flew in tents to Haiti.)
Lions International is working diligently to eradicate a disease that causes blindness in China. The goal is to eliminate the disease by 2017.
Scruggs says that the Chinese premier was so impressed with services provided by Lions International following a 2009 earthquake that he decreed that a Lions Club should be established in every province.
Lions Clubs are relatively new to China, which did not have any Lions Clubs until the late 1990s. In the past 12 years the Lions movement has grown to more than 10,000 members in China.
Sid Scruggs is a 1960 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. After retiring from the Navy as a lieutenant commander, he went to work as a commercial airline pilot. With that retirement, he and Judy moved to Moore County and became active in the Vass Lions Club.
His wife is also a Lion and Progressive Melvin Jones Fellow. They have four children and 15 grandchildren.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at email@example.com.
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