Back when the Hope Lions club was formed you could get yourself a new house for $3,600, attend Harvard university for $420 a year and buy a gallon of milk for 62 cents.
Fast forward 75 years and a lot has changed, but at least one thing has remained constant: The Hope Lions Club is active in the community, supporting everyone from school groups to the Scouts to the town’s volunteer search and rescue crew.
Lions Club first ever service group founded in Hope
“On the evening of Sept. 9, 1943, 16 Hope men met in the Fort Hope Hotel to organize the first service club in the community, the Hope Lions Club,” a special supplement to the Hope Standard on the club’s 25th anniversary reads.
“The 16 men were all active in community affairs, and felt they could achieve more if they worked as a unit for the betterment of the village of Hope.”
The supplement listed those involved and their occupations, which included a teacher, a trucker, a logger, mechanics, a car salesman, a butcher and a coroner, among others. A teacher at the Hope High School, Jack Atwood, was credited as the driving force behind the formation of the club.
Fast forward to 2018 and among the many long-standing members are relative-newcomers Sara Burleigh and Shannon Jones, president and vice-president respectively. It is the first time the leadership of the club has been entirely female.
Both Burleigh and Jones came to the club for the camaraderie and to reach some significant community goals. The Lions motto ‘We serve’ is top of mind for Burleigh, as is her focus on staying true to the banner causes of the global Lions movement: childhood cancer, hunger, diabetes, hearing and sight.
“Our main goal is to serve our community following those four causes,” she said.
“Another thing that is said is ‘where there’s a need, there’s a lion.’ So where there’s a need in the community, there’s a lion to help fix it, accommodate it, support it,” Jones added.
75 years of community support, community spirit
“They bought the first fire truck in Hope, chartered the Boy Scout movement, organized swim classes for local children and built the Tillicum workshop,” a 50th anniversary supplement to The Hope Standard read. The Tillicum project was the largest project undertaken by the club at the time, involving a $10,000 investment and at least a thousand work hours.
“In more recent years they have donated a lift to Fraser Hope Lodge, organized an annual Easter Egg Hunt, and continue to contribute to virtually every worthy cause that approaches them.”
According to The Hope Standard’s archives, the early years of the club were filled with organizing Friday night movies, or ‘picture shows’ as they were then referred to, a Halloween dance, a summer regatta at Kawkawa Lake and an annual Logger’s Sports Day.
Free swimming lessons, started in 1952 together with the Red Cross Society, were also a mainstay of the Lions for many years.
“The Lions club used to do all the swimming lessons, and pay for them all. And that was at Kawkawa Lake, before we had a pool,” said Burleigh. Lessons were also held at Lake of the Woods until the Centennial Swimming Pool was built in 1967. The pool itself benefitted from a $2,500 donation from the Lions.
Thousands of children passed through the free lessons, in the summer of July 1968 alone 460 children took part.
“Other popular events sponsored annually or occasionally by the Hope Lions include bonspiels, turkey shoots, Easter egg hunts, Valentine’s dances, Mother’s Day pancake breakfasts and car bingos,” the Hope Standard read.
Empty coffers at the end of each year
The Lions business model, or giving model, is to provide a service like a burger and popcorn stand, a 50/50 draw, firewood sales or other fundraiser. Then all the money made from these services goes back into the community.
“Our goal is not to have money in the bank at the end of the year, whatever we raise we want it gone,” Burleigh said, adding the club donated $45,000 back to the community last year.
The club tries their best to help everyone, Burleigh said, and as far as she’s been a Lion they haven’t said no to a single ask. In fact, often the money requested by the individual or group goes up from what was originally asked for.
It’s a model that works, and has seen very large sums of money donated to local charities including $5,000 to Hope Volunteer Search and Rescue, $5,000 to Scouts and $3,200 to the Hope Secondary band, just this year.
There are some things the club does that doesn’t involve money, including helping seniors around their homes.
The club also sponsors some children who don’t have the means to participate in sports. “We are open to being approached by maybe those who need a little bit of extra help and that’s their privacy, we just kind of do that quietly and keep in touch with them,” Jones said.
Keeping it fresh
Some more off-beat events the Lions have cooked up over the last three quarters of a century include a blood-letting contest and an old-school shivaree.
In an unknown year, the club engaged in a bloody rivalry with the Hope Rotary Club during a serious blood shortage in B.C. The Hope Standard’s headline read “Lions Top Rotarians 17-6 in Blood Letting Contest”: the contest was basically to see which club could get more members to stick needles in their arms and give their blood away.
The Rotarians were forced, as the terms of their defeat, to forfeit one bottle of red wine for each pint of blood the loser was short. The Lions received 11 bottles of wine for their win.
With shotguns, pots and pans and a trumpet player in tow, 30 Lions members also held a so-called ‘shivaree’ for a recently married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Stan Mulligan in July 1953. Defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a ‘noisy mock serenade to a newly married couple’, the event eventually woke the bride and groom who welcomed the noisy Lions.
The executive has also introduced some new ideas in the past few years, including this summer’s street party as part of the Fraser River Barrel Race and Hope Floats which saw around 260 people on floats in the first year the event was held.
Keeping the events fresh, never saying no to any one Lion’s idea, as well as getting online with a Facebook presence, seems to be working in keeping the club alive when other service clubs around the province are suffering.
In recent years, Lions clubs in 100 Mile House, Osoyoos, Kelowna and Clinton have closed. Those involved in some of those groups say the challenge is a lack of young members and aging members some of whom cannot take as active a role as before.
In Hope the membership hasn’t declined over its many years. In 1968 there were 45 members, this declined by three to 42 in 1993. Today, there are still 42 active members.
And the passion they hold for their club is palpable. When asked why she joined, Burleigh said “I liked what they stood for,” before growing quiet, overcome by emotion for a moment. Jones shares that emotion for the work they do.
“I found some of my closest friends in this club and I love what they stand for and everyone’s always saying ‘yes’ ‘how can we do that?’ For what I’m trying to achieve in the community, if you want support this is where you find it,” she said.
Not ones to rest on their laurels, the Lions are now preparing for the annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim where they’ll be busy warming hands and filling bellies with hot chocolate and hot dogs. The swim starts at 11 a.m. at Kawkawa Lake.
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