Brussels Lions Serve Community for More Than 65 Years

This article was written by Paul Mutter in 2016

On March 29, 1946 the first meeting of the Brussels Lions Club was held. The sponsoring Seaforth Lions Club was present to assist in the organization of the new service club and its first meeting. The official charter night was held on April 17th of that year to induct the board of directors.

The inaugural slate of officers installed were: 
R.B. Cousins President
L.W. Eckmier 1st Vice President
R.J. Bowman 2nd Vice President
Rev. H.C. Wilson 3rd Vice President
R.E. Johnston Secretary
R.C. McBride Treasurer
M. Laycock Lion Tamer
D.A. Rann Tail Twister
K.L. Ashston Director
A. Wood Director
Dr. W.D.S. Jamieson Director
M. Wineberg Director

Since that initial meeting, the Brussels Lions Club and its members, have continued to live up to their motto "We Serve".

It didn't take the Brussels Lions long following their charter night to get involved in a fund raising project. In June of 1946, the club hosted the still popular CKNX Barn Dance and collected clothing for National Clothing Drive. Since that time, moneys to fund the many worthwhile projects have been raised in a wide variety of ways.

Halloween Parties were held each year beginning in 1947 until early 1960s. In 1952, a car raffle was held which raised in excess of $2500.00 which was quite an accomplishment for its time. Rodeos, minstrel shows, peanut sales, paper drives, bingo and the Barrel over the Dam contest raised funds throughout the 50s and 60s. In 1961, the first Lions Hockey Draw was held. Its popularity still continues to grow year after year and has now become a major fund raiser for the club.

Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, "Polar Daize" provided locals with the opportunity to have fun and frolic in the cold participating in skating carnivals, dances on the ice, the "Polar Dip" and the ever popular "Thunder Mug" races. Radio Bingo, walkathons, canoe and snowmobile races also helped contribute to the coffers during this period.

In 1972, the first Lions Elimination Draw was held with the intent to raise funds for the construction of the new arena and community center for the village and the surrounding community. This annual event has contributed more than $200,000 to our fundraising activities since that time to be spent on a wide range community projects. During the 1980s, the Lions helped to promote the local business community by sponsoring "Town and Country Tradefest" at the community center. Large dances in the new arena to popular music groups were also major fund raisers for the club in the 1980s and 1990s.

Throughout the 1990s, the "Duck Races" and "Christmas Raffles", were added to our fundraising activities and in 2014, an annual Fiddle Jamboree was added. In 2016, the Brussels Lions held their first Community Breakfast which immediately proved to be a great fundraiser for the club.

As a result of the very generous support of the citizens of Brussels and the surrounding area, it is estimated that since 1946, close to $700,000.00 has been raised and returned to the community by the Brussels Lions Club. Since our inaugural meeting, the community has entrusted our club with their money, to do what needs to be done both at home and around the world.

During the mid-1970s, the Brussels Lions Club was one of the driving forces during the planning and construction of the Brussels Morris and Grey Community Center and with a donation of more than $18,000.00 was a major financial contributor. The single largest project in the history of the club however, occurred in 1984 and 1985 when the Lions Club undertook to build a swimming pool for the village and its residents. Approximately $50,000 was raised from various raffles and a door to door canvass to match an equal amount of government funding. Even though the facility was turned over to the municipality on opening day in 1985, the Brussels Lions have continued to financially support this facility, to purchase needed equipment, to fund capital improvements, and to subsidize the cost of swimming lessons for local youth.

More recently, The Brussels Lions contributed $20,000.00 to assist the municipality and its residents when the village’s Carnegie Library was expanded and renovated and in 2016, contributed $8000.00 to the Brussels Legion’s accessibility and facility improvements.

In addition to the larger benefactors of our fundraising activities, The Brussels Lions Club has supported countless other very worthwhile projects both locally and abroad. Although the bulk of the funds which have been raised are spent locally, the Brussels Lions Club is called upon to assist in other parts of the world through Lions International. These initiatives have included such things as collecting used eye glasses for use in developing countries, funding for use in the prevention of disease such as leprosy and blindness as well as famine relief, literacy programs and providing financial help for victims of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and floods.

Closer to home, the Brussels Lions continue to provide financial support to a vast array of local community improvement projects and programs including, sports clubs, boy’s and girl’s clubs, school bands, area parks and recreation facilities, youth groups, home and school associations, church groups and Santa Claus Parades. The Brussels Agricultural Society, local hospitals, food banks and a host of local charities too numerous to mention continue to benefit annually from the support of our club.

Health and Special Needs charities such as the CNIB, Easter Seals, Crippled Children, Canadian Association for the Mentally Handicapped, deaf, blind, The Ronald MacDonald House, victims of disaster and many local families in need have also been the benefactors of our club over the years.

In 1976, the Brussels Lions organized the community’s first LEO Club which was very popular with our local youth for many years but faltered in the mid-1990s. In 2013, the club restarted the LEO Club with 15 members inducted on its charter night. It continues to be very active and has taken on many fundraising programs and projects on its own since that time.

The Club has been a long-time supporter of the Lions Youth Exchange program, both in providing financial support to local participants travelling to other parts of the world as well as hosting participants from other countries and assisting with the District’s Youth Exchange Camps.

Membership in the club has remained fairly stable. From the original charter membership of 42, it dropped to 28 in the early 60s, peaked at 59 in the early 80's and presently sits at 37. For many years, its members consisted of gentlemen from all walks of life including clergy, local business owners, doctors and farmers, all of who share a common interest in serving their community. Around 2005, we welcomed our first female member into our club but it was short lived due to her relocation but in 2012, the club was fortunate again to welcome a number of ladies to Lionism. We currently have 5 very active female members and later this year, the Brussels Lions Club be led by our first female President.

Success in any organization is largely dependent upon the participation and dedication of its membership. The Brussels Lions Club has been fortunate to have a constant mix of both long term as well as new, younger members capable of working together.

New members are immediately placed on club committees to help better acquaint them with the functions of the club. Having served at the committee level, members are encouraged to proceed through the club executive ranks with the ultimate goal of serving as club president. Aside from allowing members of the club to serve the community, membership in the club provides many other benefits. Leadership skills, public speaking, fun and fellowship are only a few of the rewards of being a member of the Lions Club.

The Brussels Lions Club continues to meet on the 2nd and 4th Monday of every month except July and August. All members of the Brussels Lions Club past and present, as well as the local community shall be forever grateful to the group of gentlemen who got together in the spring of 1946 and chartered this fine organization. Brussels and the surrounding community have benefited for the past 70 years from their foresight, and from the dedication of every member, both past and present.