Members of the Fort Frances Lions Club consider each other to be family, and last Tuesday evening this family came together to celebrate what they’ve accomplished over the past year with at a dinner at the Adventure Inn.
Chartered 48 years ago, the club has done a lot for the community.
This year alone, notable contributions were made to the Lions Millennium Park ($500,000), Riverside equipment ($150,000), CT scanner—HSC Winnipeg ($117,000), and the hospital expansion ($50,000).
Numerous other contributions also were made to local projects such as the Ice For Kids Arena, Fort Frances “Community Chest,” Project Pride, and the Hearing Foundation.
Brian Sheehan of Bird Island, Mn., a director of Lions Club International, was the evening’s keynote speaker.
Involved with Lions clubs for more than 20 years, Sheehan is one of 34 International directors throughout the world. He’s in charge of the District 5M, which includes Minnesota, Manitoba, and Northwestern Ontario.
“I saw all the great things we were doing with sight, and then I saw all the great things we were doing with hearing and the diabetes . . . it was just very exciting for me,” enthused Sheehan.
He decided to become more involved so he could do more to help.
In the first half of his two-year term, Sheehan travels every weekend to different communities attending Lions’ conventions while still finding time to manage his own computer company.
He assists local Lions Clubs, motivating them and making sure that everyone knows what is going on internationally to ensure everyone is working towards the same goals.
For his speech here last Tuesday, Sheehan chose to discuss the International president’s theme. Every year the current president chooses a theme that will be followed throughout the year, and for 2012 President Wing-Kun Tam from China had chosen “I believe.”
Sheehan expanded on this theme, telling local Lions that it meant “I believe in my club, my family.”
It’s about “treating our club like family because we are truly a family,” he remarked. Listening, respecting, caring, supporting, and encouraging others within the club like family members will mean that more things get accomplished.
“When we believe in things, things happen and things get done,” Sheehan reasoned.
“I believe, and we believe, in the Fort Frances Club,” he added, urging the local club to continue to work hard.
“A gallon of gas cost 30 cents,” Sheehan said of 1964, when the local club was started.
“Things have come a long way since then.”
Internationally, Sheehan noted Lions Clubs now are utilizing social media to reach younger people.
“We have to be receptive to younger members and what their needs are,” he told the local club, which sports many senior members and would like to increase membership and interest in younger generations.
“[People] have a need to fulfil their social obligations . . . that’s one of the reasons I joined because I wanted to give something back to the community,” Sheehan stressed.
“You continue to grow with it, as well,” he added. “It gives you opportunities to do what you want to do, it gives you opportunities for leadership, it gives you opportunities to organize your life.
“It gives you opportunities to see all the great things that we do all over the world.”
The International Club has come a long way from when it was started back in 1917.
“This organization has really changed and all the things that we’re doing, and we have to change with it, too,” Sheehan remarked.
“We all have the same passion to do this, no matter where you go,” he noted.
“We all have different religions, and we all have different beliefs, and we pray to different Gods. But the Lions Clubs all have the same goals—we want to help those less fortunate then ourselves.
“You have to be a Lion member, without a doubt.
“We all have a little lion in us,” Sheehan added. “It’s not ‘have a good day,’ it’s ‘make a good day.’
“A lot of people will say we’re the best-kept secret there is,” he concluded. “Well, we’re not. We’re getting that information out there.”
After the dinner and speech, local co-president Dr. Bud Danylchuk, along with his wife, Flora, co-president Luke Schill, and Sheehan presented awards to Lions who have worked exceptionally hard in the past year.
First, many members were honoured for assisting with TV Bingo, followed by attendance awards. The Appreciation Award was given to Lions Sarah and Mike Gervais, who were presented with a plaque for their service to the club.
The Hope Medal went to the Paul Patterson for helping with fundraisers and Bingo while Val Rose was honoured as Lion of the Year.
International Presidents’ Certificates, the fourth-highest honour a Lion can receive, were presented to John Pohanka and Gordon McBride.
Sheehan then was thanked with a print of the Noden Causeway by Cher Pruys.
Schill later reflected on the past year, noting the “major focus has been the park.”
“We’ve invested over half-a-million dollars in the park and we’re still spending money there,” he said.
“Our latest project is surveillance cameras.
“And if we have some money left over at the end of the year, we will be extending our sidewalk to the seniors’ area of the park so that people with wheelchairs will be able to enjoy the park,” Schill added.
He also felt the Charter Night dinner “was tremendously successful. It gave us a little impetus that we need to move on to do the things we have to do to be better people in our community.”
“It’s been an excellent year,” Schill remarked. “We’ve probably just maintained the number of members, but we’ve had a tremendous increase in funding . . . which enables us, without hesitation, to help the people we weren’t in a position to help before.”
“Nervous but excited,” meanwhile, is how Rose felt about becoming the club’s next president on July 1.
She is looking forward to “upping the membership and continuing the great job that rest have started.”
The Fort Frances Lions Club currently consists of 27 members. Rose would like to see “more interest generated [in the club] and bring up the regular numbers.”
“The more, the merrier,” she reasoned.
This goal should not be too difficult. As Sheehan said, “Our Lion family continues to grow all the time.”
Currently there are more than 23,000 members in District 5M, and 1.35 million members worldwide.
Lori Elliot, incoming club secretary, knows the importance of volunteering and having more people join the Lions.
“Whenever you do work for anybody else, you get twice as much back,” she remarked.
While the majority of the Lions are seniors, there are a few members from younger generations, as well. This is important as people then can learn from one another.
“You learn a lot. Your eyes are opened by the people that went ahead of you,” said Elliot.
“And you get all this enthusiasm and energy from the young ones,” she added.