Members from the Lions Club of Ashburton will be reminiscing the club’s 60th anniversary this weekend during a special evening dinner.
Over the years Lions have lent a helping hand with many organisations and been involved in iconic Ashburton projects including fundraising for the Sports Hall, the first pensioner housing units in Ashburton, as well as the restoration of the old town clock.
The clock was later incorporated into the clock tower.
The Lions also provided the manpower to shift thousands of library books from its former location from its back alley Burnett Street site, to the then new library on Havelock Street.
Lions president Roger Paterson said club members had been involved in many fundraising projects helping many community organisations.
They have done catering around the district from their food wagon, run a Christmas playhouse raffle for 20 years, and provided manpower at a host of events.
Paterson, a member since 1984, has done four years as president.
He said members also run a big South Island motor home show and annual charity golf tournament as well as community projects where needed.
The club will host the district convention in April next year.
The district spans from Rakaia to Mosgiel, just out of Dunedin.
The club was formed after a meeting was set up for the purpose of forming a Lions Club in Ashburton in May 1963.
It was held in the Jaycee Hall on May 29 and chaired by Sedley Wells, chairman of Zone 5, District 202 which then comprised the whole of New Zealand.
After the aims and objectives of Lionism were outlined by Wells and Lions New Zealand representative Keith Mitchell of Wellington, it was decided to forge ahead and form an Ashburton club.
The sponsoring club was the Christchurch Host Club, which went on to sponsor many other South Island Clubs.
Dr Maurice Otley was elected the first president from among the 25 enrolled at the inaugural meeting. The outer boundaries of the club’s district were the same as those of the Ashburton County.
The charter night was fixed for September 14, 1963 with 32 charter members present and was held at the Somerset Hotel.
A large gathering attended and witnessed Dr Otley receive the club’s charter from Morris Robinson from Palmerston North. He was the district governor of District 202B; Garth Bateup of Ashburton is current district governor.
Many guests from throughout Canterbury and further afield were present at the dinner where a gong and gavel were presented to the club by the sponsoring club, Christchurch Host, as a momento of the occasion.
Fifty years of Lions was been recorded in a historic booklet complied by members including the late-Gus Johnson, who was on the Lions 50th anniversary committee. He was also involved in the history of the club’s 30th anniversary.
The latest 10-year period from 2013 to 2023 is being recorded by Ray Swan.
Johnson wrote ‘‘the club has not been a solely a fundraising organisation, an many, many hours of assistance have been given to those in need and organisations requiring help.
‘‘We can confidently say that members of the Lions Club of Ashburton have played their part in this community and in the great International Association of Lions Club.
‘‘Whilst proud of its record our club is not resting on its laurels, but is always seeking new projects which will benefit the whole district. Equally the club is actively seeking new, younger members to enjoy the fellowship and experience the pride which members derive as a result of their community work.’’
Club membership peaked in the early 1990s with 68 members and Paterson said membership now sit at 58, of mostly male members.
Lions was a male club but is now has mixed membership, which has improved the club, he said.
The late-Ruth Shaw became the club’s first female member in 2012, when she and her husband Alan transferred to Ashburton from Geraldine. Lois Sparrow and Chrissie Milne soon followed.
The Lions social functions have been many and varied with fishing trips, cricket matches, quiz nights, progressive dinners, clay bird shoots, race meeting and bike trails among the long list of events.
Since its inception the club and its members have been involved with many projects and helping organisations in need of assistance.
The first – a five day floral exhibition – was in March 1964 and helped to raise money for the Sports Hall building on Tancred Street.
Proceeds from the ‘‘monster project’’, run under chairmanship of Ian Bonisch, went to the Centennial Hall Committee.
‘‘This project was instrumental in raising the public awareness of the capabilities of the Lions and from that moment, the Lions Club of Ashburton has been recognised as a valuable and vital force within the community,’’ Johnson wrote.
The next major project was the provision of pensioner cottages to be placed on a property in Suffolk Street, belonging to the Borough Council.
These were to be the first pensioner units in Ashburton.
‘‘A county fair was held in February 1966 at the airport, but this failed to provide sufficient capital, so later in the year a telephone appeal was launched throughout the Borough and County.
‘‘Such was the response that the club presented the Borough Council over 5500 pounds, which, with a pound for pound subsidy from the Government, was sufficient to build the cottages and provide some furnishings and other small amenities.’’
The project was awarded the Ron Usmar Trophy for the best project in New Zealand that year.
‘‘In 1971, the Gemini Space Capsule, in which Lovell and Aldrin circled the earth in 1966, was brought to this country by New Zealand Lions and was on display in the Sports Hall for two days. Some 3000 children and 5000 adults inspected the capsule.’’
Also in the early 1970s the restoration of the old town clock was started by a small but enthusiastic group of Lions, led by Ralph Crum.
The Lions part in this project is recorded on a plaque at the base of the clock.
The Lions have been involved in many projects including Leprosy eradication, drug awareness seminars for parents and young people, fundraising for Ashburton Hospital medical equipment, upgrades for Tinwald Swimming Pool, the Ashburton Domain pavilion, Liver Transplant Appeal, and, through their annual charity golf tournament, helping organisations such as Ashburton Aviation Museum and Manio-O-Roto Scouts.
They have also supported international and national disaster appeals.
‘‘A number of the club’s fundraising efforts have continued over many years and continue to provide funds for worthy causes.’’