THE southern-most Leo club roared into its 20th anniversary recently.
Based at James Hargest College (JHC), the community service club which aims at pupils in Years 11-13, has more than 200 members.
The idea to establish a Leo club at the college was suggested by Makarewa Lions Club member Bruce Irwin more than two decades ago, Makarewa Lions Club president Bill Batt said.
“He [Bruce] had been involved in something simular up north… introducing young people to community service and the Lions movement.”
The original committee was made up of Mr Irwin, Mr Batt and Liz Holmes, with Linda Wall as the Leo chairperson.
Now it was the largest Leo club in the southern hemisphere, which Mr Batt attributed largely to JHC deputy principal Jenny Elder, whom he described as the “driving force” behind the club.
“She has been absolutely brilliant.”
Although the club members “pretty much drove themselves”, the club had grown mainly because of Mrs Elder’s continued leadership, “right from day dot”, he said.
In recognition of her decades of work with the club, Mrs Elder was awarded the Melvin Jones Fellow, one of the community service organisation’s highest awards, at the 20th anniversary celebrations held at the school in August, by District Governor Wendy Goodwin and Mr Batt.
Described as the club’s anchor throughout the years, Mrs Elder was also acknowledged for her continuing motivation and support in running the club and events.
The aims of the Leo Club were similar to those of Lions – to promote service activities in the community and to develop qualities of leadership, experience and opportunity in youth, Leo Club secretary Kristina Grumball said in her report on the night.
“The message of our club remains the same – to be leaders, to gain experience and take any opportunities to help the community. The reason for joining is not… just for something to put on your CV, rather it challenges [a person] to look beyond [their] own life and give back, do something [which they] perhaps wouldn’t normally do.”
Miss Grumball said she found reading through the history that each year every club seemed to compete with the previous year’s club, “declaring themselves the most active, the most successful, the one that’s raised more money – it’s quite amusing the competition between the years, but also quite humbling to know that people want to do even better for the community each year”.
She highlighted some of the club’s highlights, including in 2009 when the club was said to be the most active club nationwide, in 2010 when it was the largest Leo Club in Australasia, in 2013 when it was awarded for 15 years of service and the Daphne Russell Award for being the most active district.
“I’m a firm believer in that what you do always comes back, and doing good for the community is sure to ensure you live a good and happy life.”
Each year the Leo Club had made a positive impact with the various community fundraisers which had been held at the school and in the community, she said.
From the unique fundraising idea of an ugly dress competition in 1998 and a Lip Synch Battle in 2003 to this year’s Valentine’s Day Balloons, Hire a Helper, Ball Extravaganza, Plunket Coin Trail, the annual Slave Auction and other events, money has been raised for various local charities, from the Salvation Army to the SPCA, from Youthline to the Liver Transplant House, throughout the years.
Other events club members have helped out at include various street appeals and volunteering at the annual Plunket Teddy Bear’s Picnic.
Mr Batt said as part of its continued support of JHC, the Makarewa Lions Club also gave an annual scholarship of $1200 to a Leo member to better their education.
Other Leo clubs were at Southland Girls’ High School and in Wanaka.