By Kathy Yanchus
Lynden may be small in population, but it’s big on community spirit.
As such, it was no problem for the local Lions Club to draw 24 young people together to form the Lynden Leo Lions Club, the fourth of its kind in the A15 district which stretches from London to Fergus, and the largest one by far.
What began a year ago as an informal club, with some teenagers meeting and participating in Lion’s club projects, was formally given its charter in a recent ceremony at the Lynden Legion Hall.
A core group of what is now the official Lynden Leo Lions Club has been involved in community organizations as they grew up, including church and sports groups, said Rob Groves, who along with John Pepper and Ruth Brooks are the liaisons from the sponsoring Lions Club.
“They’re kids who are community-minded. They’re all kids that are interested in giving and serving the community,” said Groves. “The side benefit is that they’re having a ball while they’re doing it.”
The dilemma facing service clubs in general is that membership is dropping in the large cities, but flourishing in small communities, and the more than two dozen Lynden Leo Lions members doesn’t surprise him, said Groves.
“Lynden is a very busy village. The smaller the centre, the larger the organization; cities are shrinking and the (smaller) communities are growing as far as service clubs are concerned.”
The Lynden Leo Lions Club is now affiliated with the largest service organization in the world, with an estimated 1.3 million members in more than 200 countries, and a mandate that focuses on helping individual communities, as well as those in need around the globe.
“It’s the only service organization that has a seat at the UN (United Nations),” said Groves, listing Lions club-sponsored camps and the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides initiative among the many programs for which the Lions Club is well known.
Members of the Lynden Leo Lions Club will serve both Lions Club International initiatives and “more importantly” local projects, helping families in need, he said. “This club has already raised more than $4,000 even before they were chartered through bottle drives and movie nights. Support from the community has been fantastic. An average bottle drive yields between $600 to $800 worth of bottles. They also get cash donations at the door because people know they’re coming and where the money is going.”
The club meets formally twice a month on the second and fourth Tuesday at the Lions Den in Lynden.
Seventeen-year-old Amanda Renton, the Lyndon Leo Lions Club secretary, joined the club because she has “an extreme passion for volunteering” and this was an opportunity to step up her level of community volunteerism.
Vice-president Taylor Devet, also 17, has volunteered at a number of different Lions Club events before she became active in the building of the Leo Lions Club. She particularly enjoys local initiatives to “see the results first-hand.”
The letters in Leo stand for Leadership, Experience and Opportunity and the group, first introduced in the United States in 1957, gives youth an opportunity for development and contribution both collectively and individually.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate some really good kids in the community,” said Groves.