Local Lions celebrate 75 years

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For more than 75 years, the Chatham Lions Club has been helping others and helping complete projects around Chatham-Kent.

Choose a key community project and chances are the Lions were involved. Those endeavors include the W.I.S.H. Centre, C-K Integrated Children’s Services, the Active Lifestyle Centre, the Children’s Treatment Centre, Thames Campus Arena, the women’s shelter, and more.

The club has supported children’s sports leagues and teams, camps for kids, tree planting initiatives, Chatham Goodfellows, Legion poppy campaigns, R.O.C.K. Missions, TJ Stables’ Acceptional Riders program, and the list goes on.

But it all goes back to March 24, 1949. Current club president Seppo Kuokkanen said that’s when the club earned its charter.

The first official meeting took place in early May of that year, with 16 members on hand. It expanded to 26 by the end of 1949.

From the beginning, the Club was involved in local projects, raising funds to put back into the community.

Kuokkanen joined the Lions initially when he was a teacher in South Porcupine, Ont. He said a co-worker invited him to attend a meeting and has been a member ever since.

He moved to Chatham in the fall of 2006 and switched his Lions membership early the next year.

Membership is by invite only. But being involved is rewarding, he said.

“There is quite the passion. As we do more and more things, it becomes more and more interesting,” Kuokkanen said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time as a Lion.”
Anyone looking to join can reach out to Kuokkanen or other club members and ask to attend a meeting. The club, currently comprised of 19 members, meets twice a month, except during the summer.

“We’d talk to see if they’d be worthy candidates,” Kuokkanen said of prospective new members. “We’d invite them to come and visit the club for a meeting and hopefully for a project. That way they’d get a sense of what we do and who we are.”

The Lions Club also has an international flavour, as Chatham is twinned with clubs in Carpinteria, Calif. and Kathmandu, Nepal.

It hosts international students as well, with three slated to arrive in the near future.

“We provide activities to learn about what goes on in Canada and how things are done here. We’ve had people from Japan, South America, Europe and even Mongolia,” Kuokkanen said.

Regardless of location, Lions are here to help.

“We don’t stop fundraising and doing things,” Kuokkanen said. “It’s all volunteer work.”

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