Lions on the prowl for new members

By McIvor Times

DON’T you just love the flying fox at the Heathcote Play Space? Where else can you go to a park that has a giant wine barrel with a slide, and a xylophone that can be heard all the way to Mitre 10?

What about the skate park on Hospital St? Who’s got kids who spend all afternoon there?

Perhaps you’ve got family that live, or have lived at the Lions Estate units, now run by Wingtringham. If not, you’ve driven past them a hundred times.

And hopefully you’ll never need it, but there is an ambulance helipad at Heathcote Health. It can get you to the Alfred in 15 minutes in an emergency.

Who hasn’t sung their heart out at Carols by Candlelight? Or walked the bush market with a sausage, DVD or brand new pot-plant in hand?

Then there’s the Royal Childrens’ Hospital Good Friday appeal. It’s been going in town for nearly 50 years.

For all of these – and so much more – we have the Heathcote Lions Club to thank. For nearly five decades, a community of volunteers have raised close to $1 million for the town.

While they haven’t kept track of the exact figure, Secretary of Heathcote Lions, Greg Speirs, believes it’s ‘close to seven figures’.

“There have been some big projects, like the helipad, play space and the Lions Estate units,” he said. “But each project that has been done over the years adds to a collective significance.’’

From raffles, to events, sausage sizzles and even catering services, Lions have always been creative with fundraising.

But to keep on operating and delivering services they need new members.

“We came to the paper because we need help,’’ Heathcote Lions president Lorraine Speirs said.

‘‘If we don’t find new members, we may not be able to continue operating. At least not to the same level,’’ she said.

‘‘Lions is about community service but it’s also about social connection. We genuinely enjoy the work we do and we’re proud of it. But the friendships you make are the biggest drawcard.’’

Heathcote Lions Club was founded on 14 April 1971 with Allen Stephenson the first president. Charter secretary was Raymond Morgan and treasurer Brian Smith. The first regular club meeting was held on 20 April and the first major project was the Royal Childrens’ Hospital Appeal.

The Lions was presented with its Charter on 15 May by Lions International president, Dr Bob McCullough, of Canada.

“From 1971 to the current day, Heathcote Lions have been involved in many exciting and worthwhile projects”, Lorraine said.

‘‘Women could not join until the mid 1990s, but the Lions Ladies Auxiliary operated alongside, supporting all the work and endeavours’’.

In 1976, the Lions was instrumental in getting the Heathcote Ambulance Service established and helped coordinate the fundraising for, and purchase of, the town’s first cardiac defibrillator.

Two years later president Jack Fasso initiated the Lions Playground at Barrack Reserve. The play space we know today would not have happened without Lions.

In 1982 Jock and Ena Granter donated the initial land for the Heathcote Lions Estate, a facility for ageing members of the community. ‘‘The construction of units became a Heathcote project. In 1987, the first residents moved in,’’ Greg said.

From the 1980s to today, Lions has been involved in a huge variety of projects. From blood pressure units for the hospital and air-conditioning at Heathcote Primary School to farmer relief (providing cattle agistment), Australia Day ceremonies and the annual wood raffle, Heathcote Lions have been there.

“You get involved to the degree you can give,” Lorraine said. “It’s about giving what you can. Some months you’ll be able to do more, others less. And that’s fine”.

While Lorraine and Greg would love younger members on the committee, people are welcome to start small’’.

“We understand the pressures on families these days’’, Greg said.

“But the joy of Lions, for me at least, has been the sense of giving back. Plus the friendships. My father always told me how important it was to give back and you know what, he’s right. It builds a community and sustains it for the long term’’.