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We need your help... or the Lions will die out with a whimper
THEY are in danger of extinction. Although some are still thriving, the sad truth is many Lions’ clubs are a dying breed.
And nowhere is this more apparent than in Colchester.
This year, the club has marked its 40th birthday, but will only just manage to see in the new year with enough members.
As people have aged and moved away from the area, the club has shrunk to a core of just five people – in its prime, there were four times as many members.
But the diehards aren’t ready to give up the fight yet and as they look back over the years, they hope it will prompt new people to come forward.
Founding member Ian Littlefield, 84, recalled how the club was started in 1973.
He said: “A friend heard about Sudbury Lions’ Club and said we ought to form one in Colchester.
“They said they would be pleased to support us.”
Sudbury sponsored them to get Colchester’s club off the ground, and before long, the word spread and membership was thriving.
Lions, which stands for Liberty in Our Nation’s Struggle, aims to raise funds for needy organisations.
Soon Colchester’s group was organising summer fetes, a bingo club and taking handicapped people out on trips.
The club’s largest project was raising £4,000 for Golden Grove School, formerly based at Turner Village in Turner Road, Colchester, in 1977. The school, for mentally handicapped children, was in need of an extension to be used as a play area and for storage.
Lions not only managed to raise the money, but volunteers also rolled their sleeves up and helped with the building work on their weekends.
Among its big annual fundraisers are the annual duck race in May and the classic vehicle show in September, both of which are held in Colchester’s Castle Park.
“We have all got busy lives, but when we got home, we went out and did something locally, ” said Mr Littlefield, whose day job was a stationery salesman Running such events for the club – whose youngest member is 62 – is becoming a struggle.
Membership secretary Graham Harridge, who lives in West Mersea, said: “We need some younger people. I don’t know if they are just so busy or whether there are other activities.”
Peter Betts, 81, of Colchester, joined the Lions to give him something to do when he wasn’t working as a firefighter.
He said: “People have only got so much money and so much time to do things.
“At the moment, because we have so few members, we go out and a have a meal, but years ago we had dances and being twinned with a club in Nordenham, Germany.”
Lions member Nigel Tweed added: “There was such a thing as c o m p a s - sion, and in times of austerity, c h a r i t y begins at home. When David Cameron talks about the Big Society, we have been doing it for years and it’s not a hobby, it’s a vocation.”
In its attempts to attract new and younger members, the club has tried to forge links with Essex University and Colchester Institute.
Mr Betts added: “I try to talk to young families in my road about it and they say they leave home at 7am because they work in London and get home at 7pm and at weekends they want to spend time with their family.
“We need to get this feeling back among people of helping one another and you have fun while doing it. I have had amazing fun and made wonderful friends.”
Last year, the club raised about £8,000 for charities, but over the years members estimate it has raised millions of pounds.
As well as new members, Colchester Lions is appealing for people to contact it with their photographs and memories of the club.
Meetings are held twice a month and there is an annual fee of £60.
To contact the club, call call Mr Harridge on 01206 382863.
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