Service clubs are still big contributors
My dad showed me the good work they can do, and I still see it today in Hamilton
I have discovered staycation days, particularly rainy ones, are good days to uncover boxes of memories I moved into this house almost 11 years ago without opening and likely hadn’t been touched for a decade before that. I was never much help when it came to packing up and transporting all my mementos, so with each flip of the lid I am surprised by joy.
One box included a colourful array of previously impeccably ironed ribbons won at swimming competitions across southern Ontario in the early ’70s by yours truly.
Combing through the respectable pile of reds and golds down through the blues, greens and whites, I found the names of swimming pools long since swum in by me and in some cases by anyone as outdoor cement ponds have become less favoured over gleaming-windowed indoor facilities.
I, being somewhat of a queer traditionalist, prefer the outdoor kind where, in my mind’s eye, sunscreen was only for the fair kids, not for those of us who turned “brown as a berry” as my mom said, the change rooms smelled of bleach, the pool water smelled of chlorine and the lifeguards, some of whom were also my babysitters, let me be the fake drowning victim in their swimming lessons.
Most of the pools I swam in, from Strathroy to Sarnia and Thamesford to Tillsonburg, were named after the service clubs that had originally spearheaded the facility. The Kinsmen and the Jaycees are identified on a few of the ribbons but the majority name the Lions Club as the digger of local swimming holes.
My dad was a member and past-president of the Strathroy Lions Club for many years, and I proudly accompanied him to annual father/daughter dinners and heard him speak or introduce others to do so. He was a funny guy and people listened to him. They also watched him when he called the numbers each Tuesday night on the Lions TV Bingo while my mom and I played along, eating our favourite “no-dad” meals which was pretty much anything with pasta.
Then the Lions’ Fall Fair would roll around, and there was my dad spinning the wheel on the Birthday Game or flipping burgers at the barbecue to raise funds for Guide Dogs. I always saw him active in community service, and that was years after he’d already been the executive vice-president and a senator of the Jaycees of Canada.
When I learned Cable 14 had TV Bingo on Tuesday nights, I wanted to join the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton East that runs it. The members of that club use their funds to meet the needs of thousands of vulnerable children in this city, such as the 33,000 students who eat nutritious meals each day at school because of Tastebuds, Hamilton’s Student Nutrition Collaborative.
Then this spring I was invited to speak about LGBTQ Inclusion at the Rotary Club of Hamilton A.M., which meets Wednesday at William’s on the waterfront. I was so impressed they were open to discussing this topic and, while I provided them important information about the needs and gaps in service for LGBTQ people of all ages and intersections in our community, I learned something key from them. The Rotary club is an instrumental partner in ending polio around the world, a disease my dad had as a young boy. That made me want to join them, too!
Service clubs still contribute such a tremendous amount in our communities. Each one has its own vision and values and supports those through various means of raising funds and expending them, usually both locally and globally. They are a great vehicle for doing good for others while helping members expand their community knowledge and networks, and build friendships.
While I highly recommend joining service clubs to people seeking those objectives, there isn’t a membership to one in my immediate future. However, as I responded to the Rotary club president’s invitation to consider, I will sign on the line with the first service club in this community that makes the creation of an LGBTQ Community Centre its focus. Since the Rotary club seems to have helped end polio, maybe the time is right for a change in vision.