The Lions Club are well known for their catering, with Bill Metcalfe and Mick Watson pictured hard at work.ARARAT – The Lions Club of Ararat will celebrate its 40th anniversary in June.

The club officially received its charter in June, 1972 and was founded by 21 men including the still active John Dunn. The club was originally exclusive to males but over the years this has changed and women can now be a part of the Lions Club.

Some of the longest serving members of the Club are John Dunn who has been serving for 40 years, and Les Clark and Eric Wilson who have each served for 37 years.

The first Lions Club was formed in the United States in 1917, with the idea of a world group dedicated to the service of humanity. Nearly 100 years on the club is now the largest humanitarian club in the world with clubs in 197 countries.

The first club in Australia was formed in Lismore New South Wales and by 1976 there were 1000 clubs around Australia. As of March 31 2006 there were 1473 clubs with 31,056 members Australia wide.

The Lions Club of Ararat was called upon early in its life to fund raise for large appeals.

In 1974 Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin and after a quick whip around the local pubs, the club was able to send $2000 to the people left suffering in the wake of Cyclone Tracy’s path and later would raise another $10,000 for the appeal.

As well as raising money for many organisations in the early days, the Lions Club have also assisted in the clean up of the 1976 Streatham bushfire as well as the Avoca/Maryborough fires in 1985 and provided a significant donation towards the Ararat and Stawell Fire Appeals.

Over the years thousands of dollars have been spent on facilities at the increasingly popular Green Hill Lake.

The Lions Club was involved in the development of the blue stone barbecue area well as the boat shed.

During the days when the Aradale asylum was in operation, members of the Lions Club would visit the institution monthly, handing out lollies and cigarettes, which were eagerly awaited by the patients.

One way the Lions raised funds in the past was through collecting rags, but in 1982 its Project Shed was burnt, along with bales of rags worth several hundred dollars. The Lions Train and catering equipment were also lost, but the Apex Club kindly offered to share its shed with the Lions, later handing the lease of the shed over to the lions when it disbanded.

Most significantly, the Lions Club of Ararat has helped raise well over $100,000 dollars for the Ararat Hospital over the last 40 years as well as donated a portable x-ray machine, helped finance the hospital intensive care ward and sponsored a two bed ward for the hospital. The first item they donated to the hospital was a TV to the children’s ward all those years ago and in those days any equipment donated was matched three to one by government grants.

The former Pickford House, the Patricia Hinchey Day Centre and Ararat Retirement Village have also been beneficiaries of donations from the Lions.

Fund raising for the provision of hearing dogs as well as walking frames for young locals Tania Moss and Jared Gibson were big projects taken on by the Lions members.

The State Emergency Service, St John’s First Aid, Ararat Ambulance and the Ararat Eisteddfod have all been assisted over the years by Lions, while just a few weeks ago the Lions donated $1000 to the AusKick program.

In recent years catering has become the main source of income for the club, including catering for Australia Day breakfasts, Moyston Boxing Day Sports, the Ararat Jailhouse Rock Festival as well as many other events.

The Club holds weekly sausage sizzles using its barbecue trailer, known as the Purple People Feeder, which can be seen on site at Ahpee’s Lane each Saturday morning, raising money for community needs and worthy projects.

Forty years ago the Lions Club was told by an upstanding member of the community at the time that it would not last, but 40 years on it remains as strong as ever. With 34 members still in the club, attending bi-monthly meetings to discuss ways in which they can help the community of Ararat and holding true to their motto ‘We Serve’, the Lions Club has truly proven that it does indeed serve the community of Ararat.

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