– This can be a very uncertain world. It’s important that people feel that there is someone they can always turn to for help and support.
For the past 65 years, the Iroquois-Matilda Lions club has contributed its services to South Dundas and beyond, with openness, with caring and with enthusiasm. On Saturday, October 27, the 36 members of the club are celebrating their anniversary at Matilda Hall. They hope the community joins them on this gala occasion.
“Groups like the Lions are really a vital part of the community,” 2012-13 president Steve Wilson said.
The club was originally founded in April of 1947 by a group of local businessmen, and sponsored by the Morrisburg Lions Club. There were 49 members in that first group, with village reeve Lloyd Davis acting as the Charter president.
“Unfortunately, we no longer have any of those original charter Lions still with us,” said Les Craig, who has been an active Lion since 1962. “Our most senior member right now is George Jackson, who has been with the Lions for 51 years.”
“People apply for membership in the club,” Lion Paul Robertson (1977) explained. “Each candidate needs a sponsor who is already a club member. About 30 years ago, because of the number of Lions coming from outside the village of Iroquois, it seemed a good idea to officially become the Iroquois-Matilda Lions. And for the last three years, this club has welcomed female candidates.”
Les described some of the club’s early days. “I was treasurer for about 10 years, and I recall that in the 50’s the Lions used to run a Street Fair in old Iroquois that lasted for more than five days.”
“All through the 60’s the Club held live dances pretty much every Saturday night,” said Stephen Law (2009). “They also ran pub nights most Fridays.
“Bingo was also a big event for the Lions,” said Paul. “In the 70s and 80s, we held bingos at the Matilda Hall, and raised a lot of funds for the club’s many community projects. Then big regional halls moved in, and Casinos cut into a lot of the chance of profits.”
In 1984, the Iroquois-Matilda Lions sought a new source of revenue.
“Reina DeJong, wife of Lion Albert, approached Glenn Swerdfeger with an idea. Why not do a play?” said Paul. “The club talked it all over, and decided to take a chance, although we had no training and no experience. Glenn approached Wendy Gibb, the drama teacher at Seaway, and she agreed to sign on. Things kind of snowballed from there.”
Following the debut of The Haunted House in the Seaway District High School gymnasium (the show played to packed houses), the Lions have never looked back. They have staged some very remarkable shows.
The Lions’ first four productions were all performed at Seaway. Then, in 1990, the club made the move to Upper Canada Playhouse in Morrisburg, with a production of Harvey: the Playhouse has been “home” ever since. The resources and support of the staff of the Playhouse, especially under artistic director Donnie Bowes, have been phenomenal.
So has the support of the community.
Through 14 productions, the most recent being Monday Always Leads to Murder in April of 2012, the South Dundas community has turned out to cheer its amazing and talented Lion actors.
The club has also raised nearly $200,000 for charitable causes through its theatre productions.
How has the money the Lions club has raised over the years helped the community?
President Steve Wilson said that in 65 years the projects, charities and causes supported by the Lions make for a very long list.
First, and foremost, Lions around the world have always supported organizations dealing with sight.
In 1917, when Lions Clubs International was founded, at the urging of Helen Keller the Lions made vision one of their key platforms. Programs to protect sight have always been important to the Iroquois-Matilda Lions.
However, they have also supported Winchester Hospital, CHEO, Cancer, Diabetes, Heart & Stroke foundations and hospices.
Taking care of their neighbours is a priority. The Lions support the Food Bank, and Christmas baskets and have joined with the Morrisburg Lions to ensure parties and events for seniors.
The young people of the community have not been forgotten. The Iroquois-Matilda Lions support school bursaries, school projects, the South Dundas Soccer Association, Scouts and Guides and Partners for Children.
The Iroquois Lions built the tourist booth and picnic shelters at the Locks and beach, and constructed the splendid band shell at the Point.
And there are many, many charitable groups, and many, many individuals and families in South Dundas, faced with real challenges and hardships, who have counted on the Lions for their support and quiet help.
On October 27, the Iroquois-Matilda Lions will be celebrating 65 years in South Dundas at the Matilda Hall with a gala party and some stellar entertainment.
The Lions welcome all the members of the community they have faithfully served for over six decades to come out and join them.
For tickets to the anniversary celebration, contact Mustard’s Variety in Iroquois.