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Potential demise of Sidney Lions Club could impact Peninsula groups

Membership drive this Saturday in Sidney’s Tulista Park could be last attempt to save service club
Cycling Without Age Society president Steve Duck (left) accepts a $4,000 donation from Bill Deslauries, president of the Sidney Lions Club earlier this year. The club warns that 2022 could be its last one if it does not recruit new members with a membership drive taking place May 28 at Tulista Park. (Courtesy of Sidney Lions Club)

A local service has launched what it has called a last-ditch effort to save itself from shutting down, a move that would ripple through the community.

The Sidney Lions Club is holding a membership drive with food and refreshments from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 28, at Sidney’s Tulista Park to recruit new members.

“If we don’t get new members, 2022 may likely be our last year,” said Dawn Gould, treasurer. Such a move would not only spell the end of a local service club that has been around since 1964, but also impact other groups with whom the service club has worked over the years. The club has been helping local children receive well over 1,500 subsidized pairs of eyeglasses since 2004 and sales from its foodtruck have contributed to various programs.

Likely the club’s most important contribution has been its role as founder of the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank. But the club has also contributed to countless other causes in the region, including Cycling Without Age (Sidney), Saanich Peninsula Baseball Association, Scouts and Girl Guides Canada, Women’s Transition House and the Balfour Foundation.

The appeal for new members unfolds against the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has forced many clubs to curtail activities, likely deepening broader social and demographic developments already facing many service clubs that were once pillars of social life and community service.

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Existing memberships are declining because of factors related to age and younger individuals are not taking their places because of other personal and professional commitments and the changing nature of volunteerism.

Almost eight out of 10 Canadians aged 15 years and older reported volunteering, either formally as part of a formal organization or informally on their own without the involvement of a group. Their overall hours equalled more than 2.5 million full-time jobs in 2018.

Though a closer look reveals almost twice as many Canadians (close to 23 million) volunteered informally, while just under 13 million volunteered formally with a generational difference. Matures (those born between 1918 and 1945) formally contributed on average 222 hours per, well ahead of baby boomers (153 hours), generation X (120 hours), millennials (115 hours) and iGen (82 hours).

RELATED: Volunteers return after the pandemic

But the figures also contain some good news for formal organizations looking for volunteers. While younger generations are more likely to look for informal volunteer activities than older generations, often with an eye to boost their resumes, the generational volunteer rates are actually higher among younger cohorts.

More than a half of all surveyed iGen members (generation Z and centennials) said they volunteered in 2018, compared to 40 per cent of millennials, 44 per cent of generation X, 39 per cent of baby boomers and 32 per cent for matures, the only important caveat being that older volunteers do more of it than younger ones.

It is against this backdrop that the Sidney Lions Club’s recruitment drive is stressing openess and flexibility.

“We are a progressive club and welcome men and women, younger adults, semi-retired, retirees, and young families,” said Bill Deslauriers, club president. “We need the fresh ideas of the youth, as well as the knowledge from the experienced – we are liberal and welcoming. We understand that meetings can be a drain on your time so we are not strict on meeting attendance.”

If interested parties cannot attend 10 meetings a year, they can come to five or six, he said. “(Our) service to the community is what is important,” he said. “It is true that many hands make light work and right now our current members are burning out, so we need your ideas and hands.”

Membership comes with a nominal annual fee with members expected to help with events from June to September.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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