“We Serve”

Car­bon­ear Lions Club cel­e­brat­ing 45th an­niver­sary

The Compass - - P2011ORTHTE - BY BILL BOW­MAN

ince the old Car­bon­ear Lions Den was de­mol­ished ear­lier this year to make way for a new school on Val­ley Road, some peo­ple as­sumed the club it­self would be de­funct. But noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. The club is still alive and well and ac­tive in the com­mu­nity it has been serv­ing for the past 45 years.

Club mem­bers have been hold­ing their reg­u­lar meet­ings at the homes of mem­bers. Pe­ri­od­i­cally, Lions can also be seen at the TC Square mall rais­ing funds for the VOCM Cares Foun­da­tion, Heart and Stroke Foun­da­tion, Red Cross and other wor­thy causes. They will be hold­ing their an­nual Christ­mas Sweep at the mall again this year. They con­tinue to sup­port district pro­grams and the Lion Max Simms Me­mo­rial Camp near Bishop’s Falls.

This Fri­day, Novem­ber 4, they will be at Har­bour Grace Pri­mary as part of a pro­gram called Lions Quest.


Les Caines, a 13-year-vet­eran of the club has been serv­ing as its pres­i­dent since July 1.

Bruce Foote serves as trea­surer; Ge­orge Butt, sec­re­tary and Bill Oates, im­me­di­ate past pres­i­dent. Di­rec­tors in­clude: Hay­ward Ped­dle, Fred Power, Chris La­hey, Sharon Ped­dle, Jack His­cock and Tom Reynolds.

Les Caines also chairs an in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions com­mit­tee, which sees the Car­bon­ear Club twin­ning with 10 other Lions Clubs around the world.

Caines said one of his ob­jec­tives dur­ing his term of of­fice is to see an in­crease in mem­ber­ship.

“We ex­pect to grow our numbers - that’s what we’re hop­ing for, Caines said.

“Ev­ery­body as­sumes be­cause the build­ing is gone, we are no longer around, but we are still here.”

Past, present, fu­ture

Ear­lier this year two vet­eran mem­bers, sat down with The Com­pass to rem­i­nisce, talk about the fu­ture and dis­pel a few myths about the club’s cur­rent sta­tus.

Bruce Foote joined the club in 1967, the year af­ter it was char­tered. And Bill Oates be­came a mem­ber in 1968. Both have been loyal and ac­tive mem­bers ever since.

As they ob­serve their 45th an­niver­sary as a club this year, the vet­eran mem­bers vow the loss of their build­ing does not nec­es­sar­ily spell the end for their club.

“We are not fin­ished as a Lions Club. We are not go­ing to be in the pub­lic eye, but nei­ther are we go­ing to loose touch with the pub­lic we serve,” said Oates.

Club re­mains vi­able

Some have spec­u­lated the club might crum­ble, just like the build­ing. Not so, said Oates.

“The ( build­ing) is gone, but the Lions Club is still ac­tive here. We oper­ate strictly as a ser­vice club. So whether we build a new build­ing or buy a build­ing has yet to be de­ter­mined.”

That will de­pend on a num­ber of fac­tors, not the least of which will be the fi­nal fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment with the provin­cial govern­ment for their build­ing and land.

Al­most a year later, they have still not ruled out the pos­si­bil­ity of ac­quir­ing an­other build­ing, pend­ing the out­come of the set­tle­ment.

Ex­cept for cater­ing to var­i­ous func­tions, Oates ex­plained the club doesn’t re­ally need a build­ing to con­tinue op­er­at­ing. He said find­ing al­ter­nate ac­com­mo­da­tions to hold func­tions “is not a ma­jor con­cern for us.”

Over the years the Lions have en­joyed a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship with other ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion and Knights of Colum­bus. Re­fer­ring to those groups, Oates said, “I’m sure if we need any­thing, they would be only too happy to help us out.”

A big­ger chal­lenge fac­ing the Lions is one that all ser­vice clubs have to con­tend with these days - a de­clin­ing and ag­ing mem­ber­ship. From a peak of 48 mem­bers in its hey­day, mem­ber­ship has de­clined to 10, and mem­ber­ship re­cruit­ment will be a ma­jor fo­cus for the club dur­ing their 45th year of op­er­a­tion.

Colour­ful his­tory

When it was built in 1972 and opened in 1973, the Lions Den was the only build­ing west of the Colum­bus Drive over­pass on Val­ley Road. In fact, nei­ther the Car­bon­ear by­pass road nor the over­pass that takes it over Val­ley Road, ex­isted at that time. They would come along to­wards the end of the decade.

The Lions Den also pre­dates the Car­bon­ear Swim­ming Pool by a cou­ple of years.

At the time it was built there were no houses on Line Road, which has since grown into a sub­urb of the town.

And who would have dreamed 40 years ago the area, which was then wilder­ness, would one day have not one, but two ma­jor schools?

Vet­eran club mem­bers re­call when the site for the den was first be­ing con­sid­ered, one of the big­gest con­cerns among the mem­ber­ship was that “no­body would go there be­cause it was so far out of the way and off the beaten path.”

Over the past four and a half decades, those walls have echoed the voices of most of New­found­land and Labrador’s pre­miers from Joe Small­wood, Frank Moores and Brian Peck­ford to Tom Ride­out, Clyde Wells and Brian Tobin.

But po­lit­i­cal ral­lies were only one of the plethora of so­cial and cul­tural events that have taken place un­der its rafters.

The den had been the set­ting for just about ev­ery man­ner of pub­lic event, from ral­lies to roasts, folk fes­ti­vals to fash­ion shows and break­fasts and bin­gos to fire­men’s and New Year’s Eve balls.

Hum­ble be­gin­nings

Ini­tial dis­cus­sions to form a Lions Club in the town took place at the old town hall on Ban­ner­man Street. The Car­bon­ear Lions Club was spon­sored by the Bay Roberts Lions Club, which is still go­ing strong.

The club’s first char­ter night was held May 3, 1966 at the Ma­sonic Hall, with Fraser Mor­gan of the Bay Roberts club act­ing as pro­gram chair­man. Mor­gan was serv­ing as zone chair­man at the time.

Sub­se­quent meet­ings were held at the old Fong’s Restau­rant on Water Street, be­fore the club moved into its first den in an old house they bought on Pike’s Lane. But con­cerns among area res­i­dents about the op­er­a­tion of a ser­vice club in a res­i­den­tial area prompted mem­bers to look for a new site for a new den. And the rest is his­tory. Of all the mem­o­ries Bill Oates has of his time in the Lions Den, one sticks out. The year was 1992 and the event was the New­found­land and Labrador Sum­mer Games, co-hosted by Car­bon­ear and Har­bour Grace.

The ser­vice club was a ma­jor spon­sor of the games, and served as the ath­letes’ vil­lage.

“We did a lot of the cater­ing, and to see so many young ath­letes from all over the prov­ince go through there, that was re­ally some­thing,” Oates re­called. “I was re­ally proud to have been a part of it.

A framed sou­venir set of the gold, sil­ver and bronze medals awarded at the games and given to the Lions by the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee are among the most pre­cious me­men­tos the Lions had to take from the old build­ing.

Wor­thy causes

The club has raised mil­lions of dol­lars for nu­mer­ous causes on the lo­cal, provin­cial, national and in­ter­na­tional scene. Even be­fore they had their own build­ing, mem­bers would go door-to-door col­lect­ing and sell­ing tick­ets.

If some­one in the area needed a wheel­chair or trans­porta­tion for med­i­cal treat­ment, the Lions Club would help out.

Tan­gi­ble ev­i­dence of the Lions’ con­tri­bu­tion to Car­bon­ear can be seen at the Car­bon­ear Re­cre­ation Com­plex and Swim­ming Pool, to which they pro­vided fi­nan­cial sup­port.

From do­nat­ing am­bu­lances to the old Car­bon­ear Hos­pi­tal to help­ing raise funds for the town’s first aerial lad­der truck and other fire-fight­ing equip­ment, the Lions have left their mark on the town.

Help­ing peo­ple with di­a­betes and the vis­ually im­paired through the Sight First cam­paign and See­ing Eye Dogs have been “ma­jor, ma­jor fundrais­ers,” for the Lions, Oates said.

From their hum­ble be­gin­nings in the 1960s with­out a build­ing, the Car­bon­ear Lions say they “have come full cir­cle.”

Photo by Bill Bow­man/the Com­pass

LIONS MEET­ING - Mem­bers of the Car­bon­ear Lions Club meet twice a month at the home of one of the mem­bers. Here they gather at the home of Pres­i­dent Les Caines in Bris­tol’s Hope. Seated from left: Les Caines, pres­i­dent; Bruce Foote, trea­surer and Ge­orge Butt sec­re­tary. Stand­ing, from left: Bill Oates, past pres­i­dent; and di­rec­tors, Hay­ward Ped­dle, and Fred Power.

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