WHITE ROCK â€” The Peace Arch Monarchs Lions Club and will officially disband at the end of June following dwindling memberships and an inability to attract new members.
The organizationâ€™s members came to the reluctant decision on April 17, after it was made clear there were not enough bodies to form an executive board and carry on into the future.
â€œSo we were not able to come up with a full executive board and we did not have much choice, the mood was not good,â€ said Kyle McKay, club secretary. â€œIt was sad and a very, very hard decision to make. Most of us are volunteers because we enjoy being volunteers and know what weâ€™re doing for the community: however, we know we can only do so much.â€
With the clubâ€™s members getting up there in age McKay said the end was inevitable age-related health problems increasingly began to affect the groupâ€™s ability to continue the work same level of work.
â€œWe had another member that had open heart surgery a month ago, we have four members in their 90s now, so we just donâ€™t have the membership anymore for our work projects, itâ€™s really too bad,â€ explained McKay.
Last December, the clubâ€™s chairman of the membership committee, Sandy McKenzie, made a push to recruit new members as the 2014 White Rock Polar Bear Swim was in jeopardy. The event was one of the clubâ€™s most popular fundraisers and McKenzie hoped at that time that they would be able to gain enough new young members to continue. Unfortunately, said McKay, the young people never came.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of protocol when youâ€™re dealing with an international organization like the Lions Club and theyâ€™ve tried online meetings for the younger people but then they donâ€™t get the camaraderie and it still doesnâ€™t hold people together,â€ she said.
The Peace Arch Monarchs Lions Club started in 1986 after the original club, the White Rock Lions Club, disbanded that same year. The â€œMonarchsâ€ portion of the name was due to the senior members of the White Rock club wanting to continue on. Prior to that, the White Rock Lions Club had been operating since its chartering in 1947 â€“ a decade before White Rock officially became a city.
Some of the original Lions Clubâ€™s early work includes funding for the South Surrey indoor pool, donating a bus to the PAH and building an exercise circuit at Centennial Park.
Member Al Lewis has been a Lions Club member for 53 years and, like McKay, is sad to see it all come to an end. Having been part of both iterations of the club, Lewis said it was a shame the organization could not live on.
â€œItâ€™s a disappointment for the community, all of the funds we raised went straight out into the community and thatâ€™s going to be a loss,â€ he said. â€œThe thing is, we have to have bodies to take projects on and it seems that in todayâ€™s society itâ€™s tougher for people to commit themselves as members.â€
During his time as a Peace Arch and White Rock Lion, Lewis recalls the most members at any one time hovered at around 100. When the group closes shop later this year, it will do so with just eight members.
As for the White Rock Lioness Club, which will also be disbanding, McKay said the two groups shared in a lot of the same initiatives but remained apart in order to qualify for B.C. gaming grants separately from the Peace Arch Monarchs.
â€œWe thought about joining the two clubs together but we would get $36,000 a year from the gaming commission and so did the Lionesses, so they thought if they were to fold and join together, the community would be getting $36,000 less a year,â€ said McKay. â€œThe Lionsâ€™ mandate was that every dollar we raised with the community had to go back into the community and between the two clubs, we put more than $70,000 a year into the community,â€ said McKay. â€œThatâ€™s a big loss, a huge loss.â€
The clubs will leave behind a long legacy of charitable community work, including annual donations to the Peace Arch Hospital, the Kent Street Seniors Centre, the White Rock Youth Ambassadors Program and high school bursaries and scholarships, to name a few.
They officially disband on June 30 but will continue their weekly meat draws at Sawbucks Pub on Saturday afternoons until the end of May.