David Mills, left, is celebrating 50 years of being a Lion. /Photo submitted

Fifty years a Lion

By Emily Stonehouse
“I became a Lion on January 4, 1974,” said David Mills, as he sat down with a coffee in the winter sun.
The days seem like they’re getting colder, but the space inside the cafe is warm and welcoming, as Mills unravelled his blue and yellow Lions scarf to drape from the chair.
50 years of commitment to anything is a feat; toss in a retirement, a major move, a global pandemic, and the natural effects of aging, and the commitment seems that much more admirable.
“I was completely clueless about the Lions Club at first,” recalled Mills, noting that he first got involved upon moving to Uxbridge, and was looking for ways to get to know people in the community. “I was just looking for stuff to do,” he chuckled.
At the time, Mills was still working as a school principal with the Durham Board, and was instantly drawn to the many projects the Lions Club dabbled with.
From diabetes to children’s literacy to hunger to vision, the Lions Club is actively involved in a wealth of causes that continue to feed the hearts, minds, stomachs, and souls of the community. “We don’t just give to individuals,” said Mills, “we look for causes where we can make the most impact.” He noted that the exception to this rule is if there is a fire locally; at which point the Lions show up the very next day with a cheque for $500 to donate to the family. No questions asked.
Mills retired from his role as principal in 1994, at which point he was settling in with his wife, Betty, at their family cottage on Kennisis Lake. He was still affiliated with the Uxbridge Lions at the time, who met at 8 a.m. Saturday mornings. “I would get in the car at 5 a.m. and drive to Uxbridge each week,” Mills recalled.
He and Betty relocated to the Haliburton Highlands permanently in 1999, at which point he joined the Haliburton Lions Club. “We have people from all stripes,” he said. “We’re a very diverse group here, because we believe that anyone can serve their community.” Mills noted that the Haliburton club is comprised of 31 members, includes more women than men, and has quite a few couples and partners who serve together. Mills’ own wife, Betty, joined the club 17 years ago, and hasn’t looked back since.
Mills noted that the Lions Clubs have five pillars of service, and each project they take on has some relation to one of the pillars. They include diabetes relief, vision care, hunger management, environmental sustainability, and improving outcomes for children with cancer.
While the majority of their initiatives fall within the umbrella of these pillars, Mills said they do not shy away from other opportunities that could help the community in some capacity. The includes running their annual Storytime in the Park, where they offer free games, books, and activities to local children, and the Santa Claus parade in Haliburton. The Lions built that float for Santa Claus, and continue to use it each year, along with coordinating and facilitating the parade itself. “Most people don’t know this, but those reindeer are painted and carved to scale,” chuckled Mills. “We even made sure we used the real colours as well.”
Mills knows that getting involved can be a big commitment. That’s why the Lions Club offers flexibility around meeting attendance. The group meets once a month for a meeting, and then connects a second time for a social gathering. If people can’t make the meetings, Mills said that everyone is understanding. “If you don’t want to join full time, we’re also always looking for volunteers,” he said, referencing the many community events that the club offers that require more than the club itself.
He also noted that since the pandemic, the meetings are always hybrid models, with options to tune in virtually if the in-person timing doesn’t work.
While the club has a healthy number currently, Mills said they are always looking for more members. ‘These are the best kind of people to be around,” he said. “Because they are people who just want to help and make a difference in their communities.”
Mills shared that there is always a moment that you join Lions, and a moment you become a Lion. “You have to have that ‘aha’ moment,” he said, “it’s that moment you realize that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life. That’s when you become a Lion.”
With 50 years of giving back to his community, Mills said he has no intentions of slowing down. “I want to make it to 60 years,” he laughed. “And if I’m still moving, still going, why would I stop helping wherever I can?”
To get involved with the Haliburton Lions Club, or a Lions Club in your region, visit www.lionsclub.org.