There are many reasons to join a service club. Twenty-two years ago, the wife-and-husband team Rachel and Cyril Southwell found the Lions to be their volunteer sweet spot.
Devices that can improve quality of life is their special interest, said Cyril Southwell. “Wheelchairs, shower chairs, walkers, these are just some of what we collect and redistribute to anyone who has need. "Physiotherapists may call, and we will even go to the hospital to deliver.”
Donations are how their system works.
“We help out. We look after the west end and downtown Sudbury. Our special interest is assisting people who have been affected by stroke, injury, falls. We can react really quickly to a phone call, email, or even a letter.”
Cyril, soon to 82, and Rachel, 74, and married since 1967, are fortunate to have family that is nearby. To all their children and grandchildren, they exemplify how important volunteering is for the community.
“Our daughter-in-law is a PSW and now also a Lion," Rachel said. "Lions International is one of the world’s biggest benevolent organizations. I was involved in scouting in Elliot Lake. I had my Beaver colony ... I helped out with Cubs.
"I believe in stepping up, so when we moved to Val Caron I was looking for a new to me, new to us, group.”
Rachel had gone on to fulfil many executive roles in the Chelmsford branch. With a move to Sudbury’s Minnow Lake area, the Southwells changed focus.
Rachel said she believes COVID has made the need for assistive devices even greater.
“Wheelchairs and walkers are sitting in people’s garages and basements. His or her one-time owner may have passed, but someone with a spinal injury right now could benefit from any assistance.”
Sometimes a device has to be purchased.
“Government supportive agencies sometimes don’t move fast enough to provide or provide funding. Money is tight for many. We have an inventory. I know what we can supply.”
Rachel said 400 to 500 recipients have been helped so far.
“Collaborating with funding from Ontario Works, March of Dimes and what we can contribute to top-up can make a huge difference. We have resources, monetary donations that can accessed.
"I ask questions and then I know what we can or can’t do.”
It isn’t just older adults who have need.
“It can be anybody of any age, any member of the larger community,” she said.
Cyril makes it clear that if purchasing a device is necessary, any actual funds go to the seller of a device, not the person.
“We do a lot of research before we can be involved. Our treasurer is part of the process, and the whole board meets to make decisions to release money.
“It could even be a fellow Lion who has need. They are aging out. Sometimes, we see items coming back and we are optimistic it is because the person has become well enough they don’t need it anymore. That is our hope. I wish we could accept hospital beds, but they are too heavy and difficult for us to move, store, deliver.”
“How do we get the message about what we are doing?" Rachel said. "We have been effective, but the need is greater and growing. Think how much more we could do. We are willing and able.
"Everyone has the right to the best possible quality of life they can experience. We will come and pick up any donation.”
Do you have a walker, walking frame, or wheelchair that could be part of this program? Call Rachel at 705-929-7940 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.
Hugh Kruzel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star