Lions Club still serving the community

Community News

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Pembroke/Petawawa Lions Club has had to give up its headquarters building, but will continue to operate as usual. “There is a big rumour that the Lions Club is closing down,” said Club President Dan McGean. “It is not true.”

In 1994, the group constructed the building on Victoria Street in Petawawa with the help of a Ontario Lottery Corporation (OLG) Wintario grant. Though the parking lot was theirs, they had a three-decade lease with the Petawawa Housing Corporation (PHC) for the land under the brick and mortar portion of the property.

Due to mounting expenses and decreasing revenue, the club was forced to give up ownership. According to the grant’s original terms, it had to remain a community resource. As such, the club decided to pass it on to the PHC and the Silver Threads Seniors Club of Petawawa after failing to sell it to the town. The club now meets in the church next door, where they continue to do their work.

This act was necessary but difficult as the club has poured more than a million dollars into the location. “To find out after 20 years that you have to walk away, some of the club members found it pretty hard to take,” McGean added. “By the terms of the agreement with Wintario, there wasn’t much the club could do. Their hands were tied.”

They have no desire to reclaim the building, and the decision marks the end of an era, he confirmed.

The club recently marked its 65th anniversary. It began as the Pembroke Lions Club, but as the membership’s demographic shifted, Petawawa was added to the name. Some of their members have been serving the area for nearly as long as the club has been in existence, confirmed McGean.

Without the burden of paying for the operation and maintenance of the building, the club will be able to return to its roots. “We will now be putting more effort into what we do best,” said the president. “And that’s fundraising.”

Like many service clubs, the Lions are struggling to attract new members. Many of them are older - with the oldest at 94 years - yet this doesn’t dissuade the group from continuing to volunteer and raise funds for the community.

For over 25 years, they’ve been hosting the local Santa Claus Parade. They have donated and continue to pour hundred of thousands of dollars into several community projects, such as helping the Pembroke Regional and Deep River District Hospitals, purchasing a rescue boat for the Petawawa Fire Department, and helping members of the community with their emergency personal bills.

They offer support where it is needed, regardless of the location of their home base. “The clubhouse is a building, the club is people,” said McGean. “And we have some really good people who really, really want to do something for the community.”