Klaas van Veller, left, accepts his special award, the International President’s Certification of Appreciation. This certificate is awarded to Lions who go above and beyond the call of duty. Two of these awards were given out, the second went to Doug Norris.

Sylvan Lake Lions Club celebrates 65 years of community service

The club was founded in October 1954 and celebrated its 65th anniversary on Nov. 16, 2019

The Sylvan Lake and District Lions Club have helped many people over the last 65 years, and plan to continue to do so for another 65 years.

On Nov. 16, the local Lions Club gathered to celebrated the 65th charter anniversary, along with members from neighbouring clubs and dignitaries.

The club was found in October, 1954 with the first Charter Night taking place on Nov. 1, 1954.

Special guest speaker for the evening was Past International President Judge Brian Stevenson, who spoke about continuing with the spirit the Lions Club and the importance of humanitarianism.

Lions Club President Jim Watson and Chair of the anniversary event Fred Schmaltz said the judge was very motivational.

“He is a very inspirational speaker,” said Schmaltz. “He mixes stories with the Lions motto of ‘we serve.’”

For both Schmaltz and Watson, the message presented by the Past International President has motivated them and their club members.

Watson said it has renewed their focus on helping the community.

“For me, as president, it has renewed my focus to find the needs in our community and attract new members,” Watson said.

Moving forward, Watson says he will be looking to increase membership, in particular garnering interest from young members.

Like many volunteer-based service groups and clubs, membership and gaining young members is a challenge.

“Our younger members typically come to us after we have helped a family member or a friend in some way,” Watson explained.

Schmaltz added the Sylvan Lake club is one of the largest in the area with around 40 members.

A lot has changed for the group in the 65 years since it officially became a club in 1954.

In the late ‘80s, Lions Club International began to accept women as members. Before then, it was a men-only club, and women had their own club, the Lionesses, under each individual club’s banner.

“It was a really slow process to switch over to. A large majority of our female members now were once Lionesses,” said Watson.

Another big change for the Sylvan Lake and District Lions Club was the purchase of the current Lions Hall.

“We are one the few clubs to actually own their own hall,” said Schmaltz.

He continued to say after purchasing the hall, which was once a small church, it is often rented out for community purposes, such as meeting, family reunions and small weddings.

One thing that hasn’t changed for the club is its service and devotion to its community.

“Our motto is to serve, and that is what we plan to continue doing,” said Schmaltz.

Since the club’s inception 65 years ago, the members have helped thousands of people and have helped to raise thousands of dollars for community needs.

The club has worked to raise money to build the Lions Legacy Park, donated to the Christmas Bureau, the food bank, the spray park, they have scholarships available to students at the high school, and sponsor children in need to go to camp He Ho Ha.

Watson says the club’s first priority will always be its community.

“The Lions Club has international missions as well as local. Our club will always prioritize our local needs,” Watson said.

The club intends to still be helping those in Sylvan Lake and the surrounding area for years to come, and hope to see another 65 years in Sylvan Lake.

As times change, the club will change as well. Watson expects there will be changes occurring at the local level over the next few years as younger members begin to increase.

“Right now we always meet at the same time and we are known for wearing the red vests. Who knows, with the younger generations coming on we may change to have our meeting Saturday morning over coffee, and wear pins instead of vests,” said Watson.

For more information about Lions Club can be found online at www.lionsclubs.org. Those interested in joining the Lions Club can find out more information through the club’s website www.e-clubhouse.org/sites/sylvanlake

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Sylvan Lake and District Lions Club President Jim Watson cuts a cake made special for the Lions Club’s 65th anniversary.

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