As Lions Club International celebrates its one-hundredth anniversary, long time Grey Mountain Lions Club member Gerry Gerein sees this year as a culmination of all that the Yukon Clubs have accomplished in the Yukon. “I’m very proud of our involvement in the community,” he says.
For Gerein this year will be all about reflecting on the past while looking forward to what can be accomplished in the future. Gerein puts the emphasis on trying to raise the profile of the Club as a humanitarian community based group.
Counted among their many successful projects that have had a positive impact on the community is the Whitehorse Lions Splash Park in Rotary Peace Park. The Lions Club helped build Splash Park as a way to help disadvantaged youth. “Bylaw was franticly trying to get them off the street and now it’s blossomed over the years,” says Gerein. “On a hot day in the Yukon it’s important for the kids to have a place to cool off.”
Gerein says that in the past the Lions Club would often step in and fund projects that the community told them were important, “If there’s a need, there’s a Lion.”
“People are really receptive to public versus government,” he says, noting that many Lions projects eventually get turned over to the city.
The Lions Clubs were also instrumental in starting the skateboard park in Riverdale and the Whitehorse Food Bank.
There are currently four branches of the Lions Club in Whitehorse: the Fireweed Lions, Lake Laberge Lions, Grey Mountain Lions and Whitehorse Lions.
“Lions in the day were spread all over the communities,” says Gerein. “But most of the smaller ones have now folded.”
Club projects have included a dog walk for the blind, a radio auction and other fundraising events.
The Lake Laberge Lions have a trade show in early May that works as a public and private partnership. “Profit goes back into community-driven projects,” says Gerein. He says a big priority is growing membership and “fostering strong community commitment to assist with different needs in the Yukon through volunteering and being in tune with the community.”
Lions club membership is through invitation, however Gerein says the club is always looking for new ideas and support.
“We would love to hear from anyone interested,” he says. “It’s important that we figure out how we can we meet the needs of local community and stay in tune with it. It’s a serious commitment.” The Lions Mother Club in Whitehorse was founded in 1951. “It was really founded on premise of being together as civic minded people,” he says.
Lions Club International was founded with a mandate to eradicate preventable blindness and is currently involved in a number of projects targeting river blindness in developing countries and eradicating the preventable disease worldwide. “If you’re blind it’s a tough world,” says Gerein.
The Lake Laberge Lions trade show in May will feature an information booth where members of the public will have the opportunity to chat with Lions Club members.