Lions International celebrates 100 years of charity and fundraising efforts
PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 June 2017 | UPDATED: 09:16 12 June 2017
An international organisation will celebrate 100 years of hard work, volunteering and fundraising this week.
Lions International has raised millions of pounds for individuals, groups and charities over the years and Mercury reporter Eleanor Young caught up with some of the clubs to find out more.
HISTORY OF LIONS INTERNATIONAL
The organisation started in Chicago in 1917 when businessman Melvin Jones decided he wanted to branch out to help people in his community and across the world.
Mr Jones worked with other businesses to set up the Association of Lions Clubs and within three years, it became an internationally-recognised group.
The first club to open in the United Kingdom was in London in 1950, before it reached North Somerset in the 1960s.
There are now 43,000 clubs worldwide and more than 950 in the UK.
WESTON LIONS CLUB
Weston is the largest club in the area, with more than 40 members, and was opened in 1968. It is the only club in the area where membership remains limited to men only.
It has raised around £60,000 each year, which has benefitted thousands of people.
Lions member Malcolm Timmins said: “We try to help as many people as we can. We all want to have a good time and enjoy ourselves doing what we do and raise some money for charity.
“Whatever is given to the Lions goes straight back out into the community, whether it is to a charity, project or individual person.”
GO KIDS GO!
The Weston club’s biggest annual event is the Real Ale Festival, which will be held on July 28-29.
At this event, the club awards grants of up to £2,000 as part of its Go Kids Go! project, run in partnership with the Mercury.
The funds go to individuals, clubs and not-for-profit organisations which work with young people 18 years old and under.
Mr Timmins said: “We have a number of organisations which have been supporters of ours for years and help us run this project.
“We can only help out people if people help us by either putting a penny in the bucket or attending some of our events.”
If you think the young people at your club could benefit, visit www.westonmercury.co.uk to download an application form.
WORLE LIONS CLUB
The club was launched in 1999 by the Yeo Valley Lions Club, based in Yatton.
It hosts a number of events and raises £6-7,000 a year.
President Jo Underhay said it works ‘very closely’ with Weston.
She added: “Our main event is our annual fun day, which is held on August bank holiday.
“In previous years we have raised £3,000 each year for charity.”
The club also helps people who are blind or partially-sighted.
Ms Underhay said: “We hold the blind and partially-sighted bowls tournament with Weston each year, which is another of our key fundraising events.”
Over 18 months, the club collected 8,000 pairs of glasses from opticians to send to countries where people do not have access to basic eye care services.
Since Lions first came to the area in the 1960s, there have been eight clubs formed, including the Cheddar Vale Lions, the Burnham and District Lions and the Yeo Valley club.
Collectively, they have raised thousands of pounds for local and national charities.
Cheddar Vale Lions works a lot with young people, especially through its exchange programme where youngsters from Europe and Britain trade places for 10 days.
Programme organiser Sylvia Cook said: “We work closely with the youths and make donations to a series of different clubs and projects.
“We also like to recognise them when they have put in a lot of hard work.”
LIONS CLUBS INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION
It is not just the local communities’ clubs support but also cities, towns and villages elsewhere in the world.
The Lions Clubs International Foundation is paid into by members and helps areas when crisis strikes.
During the 2014 Somerset floods, the committee in charge of the foundation handed thousands of pounds to local Lions clubs to help communities rebuild.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Lions International is always looking for new members. To find your local club, visit www.lionsclubs.org