West Shore Lions Club member Kurt Dogwin

West Shore Lions Club member Kurt Dogwin

West Shore Lions doing ‘what they can, when they can’

Service club members aging, but they’re still making a difference
in West Shore communities

The West Shore Lions Club ceased collecting newspapers for recycling from 21 racks around the West Shore this month, ending a service they’ve provided for 25 years.

It was both a community service and in some years was a profitable venture that raised funds to help provide other community supports. But the Lions were only paid $21 per ton for the last load of paper they took to the recyclers. Considering a pickup truck with wooden sides on the box holds about three-quarters of a ton of paper fully loaded, and takes six hours and multiple volunteers to gather, one can see how disheartening it might be.

“We’re trying to raise money to do things for others,” says West Shore Lions Club treasurer Paul Patrick, “but that was actually costing us.”

It was also physically gruelling work – especially for people their age.

“Due to the demographics of age and disabilities, we just couldn’t carry on any longer,” Patrick says. “I think our average age has got to be 75.”

“At least,” interrupts Ed Vishek, president of the club. “But you know what? We do what we can, when we can.”

That’s part of the problem with an aging population of volunteers in service clubs in general.

Vishek understands the demands on young families and that they often volunteer with organizations in which their kids are directly involved, rather than community-based groups that may not have a direct effect on their lives.

There also just isn’t as much available time in a young person’s life, due to the fact they’re still in the workforce.

But that doesn’t have to be a restriction. “It’s all about doing what you can, when you can,” repeats Vishek.

“We meet the first and third Thursday of the month – they don’t even have to come to those – but they could just come to those, and there wouldn’t be pressure on them to do anything else.”

The most profitable fundraising efforts the club puts on these days are dances, Patrick says, which are held at the Langford Legion and are always sold out long in advance.

They also have their cooking trailer – essentially a giant barbecue on wheels – that they bring around to various events to help other organizations raise funds. “We bring the trailer and pay for the gas and do the cooking,” Vishek says. “They pay for the materials and keep the money that comes in.”

Lions members also provide the community with security and parking controls for larger events, such as fireworks and parades, and organize wood-chipping of Christmas trees each January to raise money for Camp Shawnigan. This long-time club fundraising focus gives children aged six to 18 with physical and/or mental disabilities the opportunity to camp with their peers, build confidence and participate in activities they wouldn’t likely have a chance to try otherwise.

A Lions membership costs $65 per year. Dinner on the first and third Thursday of each month – if members choose to attend – costs another $20. Those funds go towards helping within the community, as the Lions have no overhead. Unlike some charitable organizations, Vishek says, there is no CEO or administrative fees to pay, which means all their funds can go directly to helping.

Anyone interested in learning more about what the West Shore Lions do can contact club secretary Gary Mitchell at 250-727-7986 or show up at the Langford Legion on the first or third Thursday of any month at 6:30 p.m. The first dinner is free.

The Lions are the oldest and largest service club in the world, Patrick says.

“There are 1.3 million Lions in the world in over 200 countries. If there’s a disaster anywhere in the world, I guarantee you there are Lions in there with money and people to help out.”