On a hot Friday evening, the St. Davids Lions Club welcomed community members to their weekly barbecue. And, though it was a small and local affair, it raised money to help with critical aid for earthquake-ravaged Haiti, thousands of miles away.
Since 1963 the St. Davids Lions Club has been raising money for charitable causes locally and internationally. The international organization recently sent $100,000 in relief funds to Haiti.
Haiti has been subjected to a cataclysmic one-two punch from Mother Nature. On Aug. 14, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastated the island nation. Over 2,200 people have been confirmed dead, with the numbers expected to rise.
Just days afterward, a hurricane struck.
“The Lions were the first ones on the ground there,” said Allen Snider, Lions Club international director of Canada.
“Everything that is donated to the Lions goes back out. We keep nothing for overhead. Our dues cover things like that.”
Snider has been a St. Davids Lion for 41 years. He was recently promoted to the role of international director for Canada representing all the Lions clubs across the country on the world stage.
“There’s a learning curve, obviously. Lots of Zoom meetings and orientation,” he said.
The pandemic has had a serious impact on the Lions’ ability to work with the community, Snider said.
“It’s been hard to do service work when you can’t get people together. We can’t go somewhere to work with the elderly and work with kids. All that stuff didn’t happen.”
One of the club's main fundraising events is the annual carnival, but it has been cancelled for two summers straight.
“That takes a hit on our donations,” the international director said.
To offset the losses as much as possible, the Lions have been hosting a weekly barbecue since June.
“This is working out pretty well so far. We average a little over a grand in profit for each (barbecue),” Snider said.
The Lions also focus their fundraising initiatives on more localized concerns.
The St. Davids Lions recently helped Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto create an eye examination room for kids, said former president Bradd Anderson.
The collective Lions Clubs across Niagara also worked together to help the Niagara Health hospital site in Welland purchase expensive medical equipment for performing eye exams, he said.
“$200,000 a piece. We did that,” he said.
Anderson also touted the Leos program, which has been instrumental in recruiting kids from St. Davids Public School to volunteer with the club. At the barbecue the new and old generations of Lions were working side by side to raise money for charities.
A group of young Leos were handling the finances while the older Lions cooked and prepared the food packages.
“We get to help the community every Friday,” 15-year-old Leo Michaiah Ivri said.
“It’s just great to be able to -”
“Serve people,” her 13-year-old brother Ezekiel Ivri interrupted, drawing laughs from his fellow Leos.
“And to give back to your community,” added 13-year-old Andrew Christie.
“It feels good to help people,” chimed in Maya Dueck, 14.
Anderson said the club has 32 Leos helping out with all aspects of the club, from running the barbecue to participating in the Terry Fox Run this September.
The weekly barbecues will continue to run until Thanksgiving weekend, meaning many more area residents can head to St. Davids on Fridays between 4 and 7 p.m. to buy a burger for charity.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report