Beachburg Lions celebrates 70 years
Beachburg -- On March 30, 1953, Lions Club members from Renfrew, Shawville and Cobden met with 18 men from Beachburg and area in the Westmeath Township hall in Beachburg. Those 18 each paid a $5 membership fee to become members of Lions International, and the Beachburg Lions Club was launched. The following month, 26 member signed the Lions Charter, formally becoming a Lions Club under the sponsorship of the Cobden Lions Club.
The organization celebrated 70 years of service to the community at a Charter Night celebration in the Westmeath Recreation Centre hall on Saturday.
Susan Tunnicliffe, A4 District Governor of Lions, expressed appreciation not only for the community contributions of the members, but also for the contribution of the spouses of Lions.
“I know for a fact that you are all supported by them,” she told the members. “Answering calls, baking cookies, helping wherever you can, working the gates. Just know that I appreciate your work behind the scenes.”
She turned to the accomplishments of the Beachburg club.
“The achievements and service projects that you have done, and the events that helped those in need in your community, are absolutely amazing,” she said. “Just imagine how many folks have benefitted over the years from your service.”
She congratulated the club on the 2022 Excellence Award, which was presented to club member and Zone Chairperson Ralph Martin earlier.
“It’s obvious that you have worked as a team over these years,” she said. “Working alongside other like-minded Lions, you have developed friendships that have and will go on for years.”
Congratulations were also brought by Barry Chisholm, 1st Vice –District Governor.
“You have been part of Lions International for 70 of its over 100 years,” he said. “It’s great to see new people coming in and doing a fantastic job. For every Lions member, eight people in the community benefit. If we don’t have members, we don’t have services.”
One of the community services supported by the club is the Robbie Dean Centre, which provides free mental health services. Monique Yashinskie, Executive Director of the Centre, told the audience the organization was created out of the grief at losing her own son, after whom the centre is named.
“Since 2015, starting with a pancake breakfast, and since then, the Lions have continued to provide support for the services offered at the centre,” she said. “Without government funding, the centre relies on people, businesses and organizations like the Lions Club to keep its doors open. Last year the centre saw just a little under 1,000 people and provided counselling to over 800 individuals looking for help. We could not do what we do without this kind of support, and it is from the bottom of my heart that I thank everyone who makes it possible for us to change lives.”
Whitewater Region Mayor Neil Nicholson brought greetings from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski and also added his own words of congratulations and thanks.
“It’s humbling to be out here in front of such a group of people, so focused on serving their community and having done it for 70 years,” he said. “When I look out into this crowd, I see pillars of our community, the unsung heroes who weave the fabric of our community in their spare time. You don’t need titles, you don’t want the limelight, you only want to serve and make your community better.”
He cited some examples of the “incredible difference” the organization makes.
“Your backstopping of other community organizations like the Westmeath and District Recreation Association during the massive flooding we had here in 2019; the blind anglers fishing events, the Lights of Hope, your medical equipment loan program, your newsletter that connects the community in so many ways – I could go on and on. The supports you offer serve to enable and empower so many.”
He acknowledged the beauty and other assets of the community, including a medical centre in Beachburg which came into being only because of the Beachburg Lions.
“But it’s not all unicorns and rainbows,” he said. “We have vulnerable residents struggling with unmet financial, medical, social, emotional and housing needs. And there will always be disasters like we are dealing with right now – the third flood in six years traumatizing our community.”
He said building the community for the next generation can only be done with acknowledging its strengths – and weaknesses, or “areas of opportunity.”
“The significance of what you have accomplished cannot be put into words, but know that it is felt directly or indirectly by everyone, whether or not they see your fingerprints on it,” he said.
A 50-year member of the club, Wayne Heubner was presented with the Helen Keller Fellowship award by club president, Brenda Grady and District A4 Governor Tunnicliffe. This award has been established by the board of directors of Lions Homes for Deaf People, to honour outstanding Lions members throughout Multiple District A, and deserving members of the community.
However, the club’s anniversary celebration also provided an opportunity to honour a member of the community who, undaunted by diabetes, blindness, and his age (now 85) continues to fundraise for worthy causes by inviting sponsors for his walks.
Russell Mackay of Beachburg, known by many as Papa, was moved to do something for the kids at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) when he himself attended the facility in 2007 to receive specialized eye care. Seeing the needs of children who just wanted to be home instead of being hospital patients made a lasting impact, and years later, when the family sold its farm, he resolved to do something to help.
“I told my wife, Doreen, that I’ve never yet seen a Brinks truck following a hearse to the grave,” he said.
Not only would he donate to the hospital, but he would also invite others to join him by sponsoring him as he walked the 125 km from Beachburg to CHEO.
That was in 2020. Lions Clubs in Beachburg and beyond came on board, and that walk raised $125,000 for CHEO.
Buoyed by this success, he walked another 33 km over three days in 2021, raising awareness for palliative care and garnering $14,000 for Hospice Renfrew.
In 2022 he walked 75 km from Guelph to Toronto to raise over $28,000 for the Sick Kids Hospital in that city.
“That brings the funds Papa Walks and Team Papa with his family raised to over $175,000 for three important charities, each kickstarted with money from him and his wife, Doreen, personally,” said Lions President Grady, who presented him with a plaque. “In addition to the money, each walk is filled with heartwarming stories. The ‘friendraising’ is equally important.”
The celebration also saw the induction of a new member, Elwood Burger, who had been a member in previous years and was nominated to re-join by Lion Jim Labow.
Master of Ceremonies was Art Jamieson, himself a 58-year- member of the club.
Since the founding of the first Lions Club in Chicago in 1917, the organization has grown to 50,000 clubs in 208 countries, with a membership of 1.4 million.
The Beachburg club at present has a membership of 18, coincidentally the same number as met back in March of 1953 to lay the groundwork for the organization.
Marie Zettler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader