Island Lions gather for zone meeting

Members of all five Manitoulin Lions Clubs came together last Saturday afternoon at Sheguiandah’s Howland Seniors’ Hall for a zone meeting chaired by Zone Chair Lion Brian Mitchell of the Providence Bay/Spring Bay Lions Club.

SHEGUIANDAH—For the first time in years, members representing all of the Manitoulin contingent of Lions Clubs (all five of them) met for a District A-5, 14 West region, meeting at Sheguiandah’s Howland Seniors’ Hall on Saturday—a chance to meet fellow Lions, discuss club events and ways to better communications between the five clubs (Little Current, South East Manitoulin, Central Manitoulin, Providence Bay/Spring Bay and Gore Bay Western Manitoulin).

The meeting was chaired by zone chair Lion Brian Mitchell of the Providence Bay/Spring Bay club, and attended by A-5 District Governor Harold Huhtanen, as well as 22 representatives from the Island clubs. The Espanola Lions Club, which is also a part of the 14 West region, was unable to attend due to commitments with the Espanola Santa Claus parade.

The district governor began the meeting, saying, “I’m so very happy to see you’re getting together, meeting and getting to know what’s happening in your area. I like zone meetings because they are a place to voice your opinions and share your ideas.”

Lion Huhtanen noted the large presence of women at the meeting, a fact he was pleased to see.

Lion Mitchell spoke of the lack of training available for Lions Club members on the Island and questioned the clubs as to whether this would be of interest to them. One Lion suggested a disconnect between Sudbury, where training courses do occur, and the Island clubs, that are not aware of the opportunities available to them. A date of April 18, at the Mindemoya Curling Club, was set for an Island-wide school of instruction for Lions Club members as a result of discussion.

The Lions spent a good deal of time discussing a Manitoulin clubs calendar of events, as the busy summer season becomes filled more and more with each passing year. Each club took a turn sharing its own events calendar throughout the year with the end result a Lions Club calendar which will be shared with the Island municipalities in the hopes that as few conflicts with dates as possible will arise as a result.

“It’s not just about communications, but helping each other too,” Lion Mitchell said. “Here on the Island we don’t have big clubs so sometimes, when a club is running a function, they have just five members. We need to get into the mindset that while we’re separate clubs, our goal is the same. Working together can only lead to success.”

Lion Mitchell said that while he’s been involved with the Providence Bay/Spring Bay Lions for five years, this is the first meeting of Island clubs he has ever attended.

“We need to get over that,” he added.

Lion Huhtanen said this year’s Lions International theme is ‘Strengthening the Pride,’ which can also mean helping one another.

Lion Anita Lalonde of the Gore Bay Western Manitoulin Lions Club shared a suggestion for an Island-wide club initiative. She explained that one member of their club is the proud owner of a retired guide dog (guide dogs for the blind, and other disabilities, are part of the Lions Club mandate). The cost for training a dog from puppyhood costs between $10,000 and $14,000, depending on its use as a service animal. Lion Lalonde posed to the group a cost-sharing endeavour where each club could raise one-fifth of the cost of a dog over three years. The idea went over well with the Lions and it was agreed that it would be brought back to the individual clubs.

The question of incorporating clubs was also brought forward, with Little Current Lions Club President Bruce Burnett noting that his club has been incorporated since 1981, which gives the club a charitable status.

Like many service clubs across the country, talk turned to recruitment and retainment of club members with the clubs sharing their thoughts and ideas on what works and what doesn’t for attracting new Lions.

Lion Huhtanen said there needs to be a “shift in thinking” when it comes to recruitment. Gone are the days when young members can dedicate themselves to each and every meeting, he said. Clubs need to think in terms of new members attending meetings when they can, but are there in full force when it comes to helping out at events.

The cost of dues can also be a problem, Lion Mitchell added, giving the suggestion of the club paying for a new member’s dues, which typically cost around $80 each year. Lion Burnett noted that in Little Current, a member is asked to pay $25 each year with the club paying the rest of the fee.

The session ended with the clubs deciding on a year-end gathering of all Manitoulin membership with a date as yet to be decided.

“This is one of the most active zone meetings I have ever attended,” the A-5 district governor said, “showing Lionism is strong and well on the island of Manitoulin.”