By Jenn Watt
Two members of the Haliburton and District Lions Club were bestowed prestigious awards for their contributions to the club, the district and the wider community.
Mary Lawr and Betty Mills received the International Leadership Medal and International President’s Medal, respectively via courier – an untraditional method of delivery, but appropriate during the pandemic.
“I got a message in my email that said this is a tracking number for my order and I thought, ‘I didn’t order anything,’” Lawr said. “… And then UPS showed up in my driveway and there was this letter and a medal saying I had won this service [award].”
Mills had the same experience, with a box arriving containing an unexpected honour.
“It’s not something that you expect or work to get. It was a total surprise,” she said.
The awards recognize the hours these members spent working on projects on behalf of the service club. Lawr, who was service chairperson during the 2019 year (which for the Lions goes from July 2019 to June 2020), was involved with many of the local club’s projects.
Some of those include a bottle and can collection with refunds going to the Walk for Service Dogs, Reverse Advent Calendar for the food bank, eyeglasses collection for those in need, and the Cash Calendars fundraiser. In addition, the annual polar dip coordinated by the Lions raises funds for the Hospital for Sick Kids.
Mills, who was service chairperson for the District A16, said many of her hours were collected as she worked with the 52 clubs included in the region, assisting them in reporting their service activities.
“Every club has different service activities, but they’re not reporting them to anybody and nobody knew about them at the upper level of international Lions. … Lions Club International is a very big organization and they get a lot of support for funding [from] corporate sponsorships and trust funds [etc.] that can help to alleviate some of the situations in the world … In order to get funding from these other organizations, it’s important to have data and they found there was more service going on than was being reported and told to these big companies,” she said. She also helped to coordinate information sharing between clubs, with a list of successful service activities to inspire members.
Funding was also obtained to benefit frontline workers in Bobcaygeon, where a COVID-19 outbreak killed several residents at a nursing home. The grant was about $14,000, which was spent primarily on food for the workers, through gift cards to restaurants.
“By asking the frontline workers, they said they would love to be able to pick up a meal after a shift and go home and eat –or go wherever they were going, a lot of them were in isolation,” Mills said.
Mills was first a “partner in service” with the Lions, since her husband David has been a Lion since 1972. She joined the organization in 2006. She said the experience has been a meaningful one.
“I’ve met some of the nicest people that I’ve ever met in my life, because we’re all kind of like-minded, wanting to help other people,” she said. Her time with the organization has enhanced her leadership and public speaking skills and she has met people from all walks of life. It’s also something she can share with her husband.
Lawr has been a Lion for about the same amount of time, and said she was convinced to join by a friend and enjoyed it. She said even when times get stressful, she knows she can chat with her fellow Lions and they get through it together.
Receiving an award for her work was a pleasant surprise, she said.
“I still can’t believe it. I had to put it online so my kids could see it,” she said. “… I was very, very surprised and very honoured that they did this because I had never heard of the service award before. I just did it because that’s what I like to do.”
Linda Heeps, club secretary, keeps track of the metrics for the Haliburton and District Lions Club. She said for the 2019 year (July to June), 3,799 people were served, 172 activities completed, 3,990 volunteer hours completed, $27,551 dollars donated (U.S.), and $32,218 funds raised (U.S.).