It’s a wet, blustery day as I head off, rugged up warm, to join the Ashburton County Lions on a social outing to Peel Forest. This very active Lions Club always welcomes new members, and they’ve invited me along to find out what being a Lion is all about.
There’s a lot of laughter and a bit of “who’s travelling with who?” goes on, but we’re soon on the road. Club President, Carolyn Nelson, puts me in the picture as we travel. “Being a Lions Club member is simply about being part of your community – about making a difference, but it’s not all give.” Carolyn says she joined for the friendship. “I’ve made fantastic friends from Lions. Our Social Committee plans regular outings such as this one. I’ve gained so much by being part of a very welcoming group of like-minded people.”
So, who would make an ideal Lion? “We currently have 54 members, but we’d certainly like more,” she smiles. “You have to want to be part of a service organisation and have time to help on the various committees. Many members are still in full or part-time employment, while a number are retired. I think time and lifestyle are a big factor. When both a husband and wife are working they don’t get as much time together as they’d like. There are family commitments, and so many options for hobbies, but each member can be as involved as their other commitments allow.”
Ashburton County Lions meet at a ‘tea meeting’ each month to plan their various projects and activities. “Toot for Tucker is one of our biggest local projects. It started, quite small, in 2000. This year we gathered 450 banana boxes of food, and had some amazing people pitch in; bank staff, Scouts and so on.” Stars in their Eyes is another high-profile County Lions project which raised $15,000 for youth in Ashburton, and they also sponsor candidates on the Berwick Outdoor Experience. Did I mention collecting for the annual Heart Foundation Appeal and Red Puppy Appeal? “It sounds busy,” she laughs, “but we all share the workload and do what we can.”
New members must be invited, and sponsored by an existing member, but anyone interested can contact the club. “Lions Clubs International has been around for over 100 years, and we’d like to be here for another century. We’re all volunteers. It’s about service to the community, but it’s also about friendship. We enjoy it.”
Enjoyable, indeed. We arrived in sunshine at the Church of the Holy Innocents, Peel Forest, where John Acland enthralled us with the history of the building and surrounds. Home-made afternoon tea at a delightful local property followed. A great day out with fabulous people. It doesn’t get better.