65 years of service
Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury
Jim Gilchrist, who died late last year, was a veteran member of the Douglas Lions Club. At the club’s 50th anniversary, he accepts a plaque for his contributions from then-president Kevin Van Woezik (right).
Charlene Van Woezik
February 20, 2013
Terry McHale sits back in a chair at the Douglas Tavern holding the charter plaque for the Douglas Lions Club.
It’s an appropriate place to display the names, too, since this is where club members meet the first and third Tuesday nights of every month.
The plaque contains signatures of the club’s 31 charter members. They are all dead now, but McHale says they sowed the seeds for a club that has much to be proud of over the years.
Those first members included McHale’s dad, Martin, as well as Arnold O’Neill and son Tony of the village business, A.J. O’Neill & Sons.
This Saturday night, Douglas Lions Club members and other invitees will meet up the street, at St. Michael’s Catholic School, for a catered supper and celebration of the club’s 65th anniversary.
These days club membership is down, but its focus on helping community members and community projects in the area continues. Major projects include the Santa Claus Parade, the summer fishing derby and Frosty Fun winter carnival.
“The club’s probably the best thing that ever happened to the Douglas area,” says Terry McHale while referring to the club’s contributions toward the local ball fields, the hockey rink, getting local kids to the pool in Anrprior, and more.
“If there’s a family in need a lot of time we can reach in a give them a lift,” says McHale.
“It’s been a great club, a great social club and a benefit to the community.”
As with other service clubs in the Renfrew area, it’s more difficult these days to maintain a strong fundraising force. Membership dropped to 13 with the December 2012 death of long-time and outstanding club member Jim Gilchrist. However, two new members are expected to bring membership up to 15 in the next little while.
Kevin Van Woezik was president when the club celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1998. At that same celebration, the club’s last active charter member, Terry O’Neill, was recognized with an award by District A-R Governor Jim Duff.
“Some of the guys I looked up to, like Steff Heebink and Jim Gilchrist, asked if I wanted to join,” said Van Woezik, thinking back to when he joined the club in 1991.
“They were guys who did a lot for the community. They always seemed to be helping people, and that’s what the Lions Club is all about,” added Van Woezik. “It’s a good feeling to be able to help your community. It’s really an honour.”
The once all-male membership now includes females. In fact, three generations of one family were members until Gilchrist’s recent death, the other family members being his daughter Donna Bimm and granddaughter Melissa Vanderwal.
Vaderwal says her grandfather said Lions Club membership was all about community involvement and getting yourself “out there to give back to the community. He always felt volunteering was important.”
Over the years, the club used bingos and the sale of Nevada tickets as major fundraisers, but that has evolved in recent years. The bingos and Nevada sales are gone, while pancake breakfasts and chip wagon sales at such prominent events as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade account for much of the fundraising.
Recently, the club has provided donations for Renfrew and Area Health Services Village doctor recruitment, Hospice Renfrew and the Pembroke Regional Hospital’s MRI fund.
The current club president is Harold Gallagher. His father (Harold Sr.), brothers (Paul and Tom) and brother-in-law Ray English have each been members, but Harold didn’t get around to joining until later.
Now 66, the Douglas native says, “I thought I was too busy when I was growing up. The trouble is I missed a whole lot. I missed out on a whole lot of camaraderie.”
Much of that camaraderie was enjoyed by the club’s 31 charter members. For the record, they are: Arnold O’Neill, D.C. McEachen, Duncan McLeod, Stanley Bolger, Carl Scott, Robert McNab, Martin McHale, Joseph Breen, T.M. Neville, Cecil P. Simpson, Malcolm McNab, D.S. McEachen, Jerry Sheehan, Gordon Crogie, Percy James, Roy McGregor, Lornie McGregor, Michael O’Neill, Anselm O’Neill, Joseph McHale, Larry Moriarty, Cameron Stokes, D. Lynch, Wilburn Neville, Harold McQuitty, Alex James, James Purdie, Joseph Neville, Harold McEachen, John McDonald, Ira Richards, Neil H. Livingston, Allan Stewart, Stewart Ryan, Merrit Morton, Eddie Beach and P. Redmond.
Lions Club six major objectives include the fostering of a spirit of understanding in the world; promotion of good citizenship; and the encouragement of service-minded citizens to serve in their community without personal financial reward.
• The author of this story is the grandson of Harry A. Newman, who became the first Canadian president of Lions Club International. He served as president for the 1924-25 term. He died in 1976.
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