The countdown is on – Lions volunteers are celebrating 75 years of always being there for the community

From bushfires and floods and even the spread of COVID-19, Lions volunteers are always there for the community and this is the theme as Lions Australia gears up for its 75-year anniversary next year.

With just 12 months to go, the countdown is officially on and volunteers across Australia are kickstarting celebrations in their communities. In coming months many clubs will be hosting special events and the organisation is aiming to plant at least 75 commemorative gardens across the country before the official anniversary in September 2022.

Since the first club was formed in Lismore in 1947, Lions Australia has grown to be the largest service club organisation in Australia, with over 1200 clubs and 25,000 members giving back through an array of community-based programs and initiatives.

Some Lions are on a mission to cure childhood cancer and Alzheimer’s, others to help support those affected by droughts and floods and many are working together to make their local community a better place to live.

Lions Australia CEO Rob Oerlemans says the anniversary is a wonderful opportunity to not only celebrate the impact of Lions over the past 75 years but also recognise the growth and evolution of the organisation as it looks ahead to the next 75 years and beyond.

“From drought, fires and floods to the spread of COVID-19, our country has faced many challenges in recent years, which has really highlighted the power of community service.”

“We are so proud of what we have achieved to date and are well positioned to make an even bigger difference in the future.”

“Our goal at Lions is that the demographic makeup of our clubs matches the demography of the community in which they operate and our organisation has really adapted and evolved over the years. We’re so proud to have a growing number of speciality clubs across Australia ranging from young Leo clubs, virtual clubs, ethnic clubs, special interest and autism clubs and an incredible range of projects and foundations making a real difference in the community.”

“Many clubs are planning special events in their communities in coming months. We are delighted to see so many jumping on board with our 75 commemorative garden project. At Lions, we pride ourselves on doing our bit to nurture our local, national and global environments. It’s one of Lions’ five key global focus areas.”

For anyone in the community interested in doing some volunteering, Rob says it’s a great time to join Lions.

“If you see your local Lions volunteers out and about in coming months make sure you stop by, says hello and see how you might be able to get involved. We know there are many people

out there looking to make a difference in the community right now, and it’s a great time to join us,” says Rob Oerlemans.

Lions volunteers pay annual membership fees to cover admin costs which means 100% of funds donated to your local Lions Club goes directly towards the cause.

Lions volunteers say thank you to our COVID Healthcare Heroes

Frontline health staff are working under extreme conditions right now, but local Lions volunteers are on a mission to recognise our COVID-19 Healthcare Heroes and they’re asking for the community’s help!

Coogee Lions Club volunteers are working closely with Prince of Wales Hospital to recognise and reward nurses in the COVID ward on a weekly basis.

Healthcare Heroes will be acknowledged for their hard work and will each be presented with a special certificate of thanks and a $50 shopping voucher.

Coogee Lions Club Co-President Sari-Elle Kraemer says the project is a wonderful way for the community to come together and show healthcare workers how much they are appreciated at this difficult time.

“Lions are local volunteers passionate about doing what we can to help others and make a difference in the community. Right now, we’re on a mission to recognise the hardworking frontline healthcare workers who are going above and beyond to look after the community during COVID-19.”

“Many are working longer and more frequent shifts in physically challenging environments, having to perform their role in double layered Personal Protective Equipment and endure the stress and trauma of increasing case numbers.”

“We know there are many others like us who would like to say thank you, so we invite the community to help us. We’ve set up a Gofund me page and each week we would love to give our Healthcare Heroes a $50 shopping voucher or gift to show our appreciation for their incredible work. We encourage the community to jump online and make a donation. The more funds we receive the more Healthcare Heroes we can thank.”

For more information on how you can help thank our COVID-19 Healthcare Heroes visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/coogee-lions-healthcare-heroes

Every dollar raised will go to the Healthcare Heroes.

Heartbreak behind Lions mission of mercy

He might be a reluctant hero but Need for Feed founder Graham Cockerell takes pride in the $30 million hay bail-out for struggling Aussie farmers. Tony Fawcett reports.

Graham Cockerell knows well the heartbreak that can affect Australian farming families.

As an 11-year-old, PDG Graham, founder of Lions-based Need for Feed which in 15 years has delivered $30 million worth of hay to ailing farmers, suffered the loss of his father to farm-related suicide.

The memory and sadness of that event, which forced the selling of the family farm, has never left him.

Looking back on Need for Feed’s phenomenal record in helping drought, fire and flood affected farmers, Graham confirms his father’s death was a catalyst in the project’s 2006 founding.

It was around the 40th anniversary of his father’s death that Graham got involved. “It was the middle of the Millennium Drought and in Victoria, “ he recalls, “we had drought and fires at the same time and there were media reports that three farmers per week were taking their own lives. That all came home to me and I was in a position to be able to help somebody, which I did.”

First off, he delivered a load of his own hay to bushfire-ravaged Cowwarr in Victoria’s Gippsland. “That was going to be all there was to it, but it’s the old story … when I saw the enormity of the problem I felt I had to do something,” he says. “So we rounded up those we thought could help and the starting point was my own (Pakenham) Lions Club.

Before Need for Feed’s launch, Graham was unable to even talk about his father’s suicide. “I just wasn’t able to have a conversation about it,” he admits.

He first publicly revealed details when interviewed on Need for Feed by former Melbourne ABC radio presenter Jon Faine. “I had to go home and tell my grown-up daughters about how my father, their grandfather, died – I hadn’t discussed it with anybody before. But now I’m able to talk to others about it, and we feel that what we are doing is really making a difference.”

Like so many of today’s ailing farmers, Graham says his dad’s suicide was not due to him being a bad farmer. Through no fault of his own he was simply faced with hurdles he felt he could not overcome.

“There are a lot of good farmers out there, and I suppose some bad ones too,” says Graham. “But even the good ones get caught up in events that go for way longer than expected, whether a one-in-100-year drought or the latest floods on the NSW mid-north coast.”

ON THE ROAD: In 15 years Need for Feed convoys have delivered approximately $30 million worth of hay to ailing farmers.

Although reluctantly in the Need for Feed spotlight and ever anxious to deflect praise to his colleagues, Graham takes pride in the project having donated about 5,000 truck loads of hay or 180,000-200,000 bales, the equivalent of about $30 million, in 15 years.

Often a delivery has meant the difference between a farmer walking off the land and not.

Need for Feed has few problems finding volunteers. “It is getting bigger but it’s getting easier to manage in that we’ve got more people helping,” says Graham.

“Once most people try it they enjoy it and they’re hooked and keep coming back to help.”

Two-thirds of volunteers are Victorians, yet now many are based on the NSW mid-north and central coasts with hay runs in nearly all states. Just over half the volunteers are female.

In March the operation had grown so much a specialist Lions club was formed to relieve the Pakenham club. Regular volunteers were approached to become founding members of the Lions Club of Victoria Need for Feed, and of the 30 approached 29 happily joined.

Today Need for Feed is the only fulltime rural aid group among the big five Australian farm charities run totally by volunteers.

News of its efforts has spread wide, with donations from as far away as the US and UK, with 8,000 UK pounds recently donated by young Isle of Mann farmers, to be split between Need for Feed and St Vincent de Paul for bushfire relief.

Now a registered charity with Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status, it provides corporates with a tax deduction when they donate.

Recent activities have been concentrated on NSW flood areas, with a run on average every month.

The project’s biggest run to date involved 90 trucks from Dubbo to as far as the Hunter Valley and the centre-west.

Along with hay, Need for Feed donates care packs and food hampers, including food for our canine mates (every farm has at least one dog!)

At 66, Graham, who runs a garage and spray-painting business with his partner and Need for Feed secretary Claire Johnston, acknowledges he has “probably spent too much time helping others and not enough building up a bank account” – but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Retirement, he says, will have to wait.

 

To volunteer/donate to Need for Feed, visit www.needforfeed.org

Story by Tony Fawcett.
Feature Image –
FARMERS’ SAVIOUR: Need for Feed founder Graham Cockerell … his farmer father’s suicide was a catalyst in a Lions life devoted to others. Picture courtesy Andy Rogers & The Weekly Times

Lions continue to go above and beyond to help the community through COVID-19

Whilst the spread of the highly contagious Delta strain of COVID has changed how community service groups meet and fundraise, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed and that’s the determination of Australia’s volunteers to make a difference.

CEO of Lions Australia, Rob Oerlemans says he is delighted to see how volunteers across the country are continuing to support their communities through COVID-19.

“At Lions we pride ourselves on the work we do to help others and make our communities better places to live. Right now, our service is needed more than ever.”

“From raffles, sausage sizzles and trivia nights, to environmental work and supporting the deaf, blind and vulnerable, our volunteers are traditionally very hands on and involved in their communities. It’s been wonderful to see so many of our clubs adapting to support each other and their communities through the health pandemic. This continues today, even through the lockdowns and restrictions resulting from the spread of the highly contagious Delta strain of COVID.”

“Lions volunteers across the country have been reaching out to those less vulnerable in their community and offering to purchase and deliver essential goods. We have been seeing many clubs supporting local health care workers through cooking and delivering food hampers to hospitals and vaccination hubs. Some clubs in Western Australia have also been brightening the lives of children in hotel quarantine through delivering care packs with toys and books to keep them entertained.”

“Our Lions volunteers here in Australia have also been doing what they can to support those in need overseas. The Sydney Sri Lankan Lions Club have been doing some incredible work. To date the club has donated over 20 Airvo2 Highflow Oxygen Machines to hospitals in Sri Lanka to help with the country’s fight against COVID.”

Lions encourages anyone interested in getting involved to consider joining their local Lions Club.

“It’s a very rewarding experience to give back to the community and help others in need. It’s also a great opportunity to meet new people. Some Lions clubs for example may not be in a position to offer assistance to the community right now but they are determined to keep in touch to support one another. This is one of the many benefits of being a volunteer in a service organisation like ours – you meet other likeminded people in your community and across the global Lions network who often become your closest friends,” says Rob Oerlemans.

COVID EMERGENCY – Indonesia & Sri Lanka! How you can help through LCIF.

 

HELP our Lions in Indonesia during the pandemic

Although we are all challenged during this pandemic, we are aware of the very dire straits being faced by our colleagues in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. In Indonesia today there were almost 40,000 new cases with over half a million active cases.  Our Lions Clubs in Indonesia and Sri Lanka are doing the best they can to support their communities but they need our help.

Lions Clubs International Foundation has made available a special process to enable clubs to dedicate donations to assist Indonesia and Sri Lanka during this emergency, in the same way that Disaster Grants operate.  In order to ensure that your donation goes to assist Lions in these countries, please follow this special process.

1.    Make your donation to LCIF through your Cabinet Treasurer.  (Donations to the Lions Australia Fund for LCIF do not apply)
2.    Advise your Cabinet Treasurer AND your District LCIF Coordinator that the donation is specifically to assist Indonesia or Sri Lanka during the COVID crisis.

These specific donations will be eligible for Campaign 100, Melvin Jones Fellowship and Lions Share recognition. Don’t forget that a donation of US$1,000 can also be used to acknowledge one of your own members through the LCIF 201 Heroes for LCIF campaign.

LCIF will reserve the funds for Lions in these countries who can apply for matching grants to purchase medical equipment, personal protective equipment and other support.

That’s all you need to do and if you need guidance, your District LCIF Coordinator is always happy to help you.  You will find them on page 14 of your Lions directory!

Need for Feed – Lions delivering for farmers in need

Need for Feed was established in 2006 in response to what was at that time the driest period on record. At that time, reportedly three farmers per week around Australia were taking their own lives and many others walking off the land, unable to cope with circumstances beyond their control.  

Lions member Graham Cockerell, had lost his own father years before to farm related suicide, and didn’t want see other farmers and their families go through the same heartbreak.  

The point is, says Graham, “My father wasn’t a bad farmer, in fact quite the opposite; He found himself in circumstances beyond his control where he could see no other way out”.   

Graham had given away one small truckload of his own hay to a group of farmers burnt out in East Gippsland. When he saw the scale of the destruction and spoke to those affected, he returned home determined to do something about it. He talked to his Lions Club, got them on board and rounded up a group of mates to get involved with the fundraising and finding more hay.  

The Need for Feed team came to the rescue during the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 and have continued on each year through fires, floods and droughts to provide fodder and raising funds to keep the trucks rolling.  

​The response to the latest drought has seen well over 1300 truckloads of fodder worth around 12 million dollars delivered to farmers totally free of charge into all of the eastern states including Tasmania and South Australia, along with more than 700 truckloads with a value of at least $6.5 million for those affected by last summer’s horrific fires. Over 90 truckloads have now been delivered to support those impacted by the current floods with more deliveries planned. 

These deliveries are usually accompanied by household hampers, personal care packs, Lions teddies and toys for the kids, and food for our best mates. Every farm has at least one dog! 

Now in its 15th. Year, Need for Feed take great pride not only in being managed 100% by Lions volunteers but also last year being adopted as a national Project of Lions Australia.  

The core group of Lions members on our committee are involved on pretty much a daily basis with over 200 regular volunteers.

Riverside Lions build mobile amenities unit for homeless in Launceston

Members of the Riverside Lions Club in Launceston Tasmania have built a mobile amenities unit providing homeless people access to warm showers and a place to wash and dry clothes.

The club saw the need for all community members to have access to a safe space to shower and wash their clothes, so set to work building the unit from the ground up in the club’s own work shed.

The club received a grant from the Tasmanian Community Fund and was also supported by a number of local businesses, particularly Samios Plumbing Supplies.

Construction of the unit totaled $25,000 and the club was pleased to have Tasmanian Premier The Hon Peter Gutwein attend the opening.

The unit is located at the Shekiniah House centre for the homeless in central Launceston and is managed and maintained by a team of volunteers.

Oatley Lions Donate $30,000 to purchase neo-natal care unit at St George Hospital

Oatley Lions Club and the Australian Lions Foundation have donated $30,000 towards the purchase of a neo-natal bed for the local St George Hospital Special Care Nursery.

Money was raised through community support of the annual Oatley Lions Village Festival, a $5000 donation by the club’s major sponsor, Oatley Hotel, and the Australian Lions Foundation.

“St George Hospital is so important to our local community and we are incredibly proud to work with Oatley Lions to help care for newborn babies. Oatley Lions are good people doing good work and their fundraising always goes towards the benefit of our community,” said Oatley Hotel owner and licensee Lyn Humphreys.

The new unit will enable continued treatment and care of many newborn babies.

Margaret River Lions fundraise $15,000 to purchase interactive table for local aged care facility

Western Australia’s Margaret River Lions are helping local elderly residents who are battling with dementia.

The club has donated $15,000 to Baptistcare Mirrarnbeena to purchase an interactive table which uses light animation to help with cognitive challenges.

The Tovertafel – also called a ‘magic table’ – was developed in the Netherlands and uses infrared sensors to detect hand and arm movements, allowing people to play games and interact with everything from colourful flowers and butterflies to bubbles and falling leaves.

Baptistcare had tested the technology and felt it would be perfect for some of its residents, but were struggling to come up with funding.

“Then something magic happened,” said Baptistcare’s Lesley Longfield. “Our dear friends at the Margaret River Lions Club saw the Tovertafel in action, and with their usual generosity and community spirit decided to fundraise so we could purchase one for Mirrarnbeena.”

The club’s Vice President Brian Pendergast said members were always keen to support the elderly thanks to a long association with Baptistcare.

“As soon as we saw the faces of the residents who were trialing the Tovertafel, we knew this was something worth getting behind,” said Brian.

Lions caring for kids in quarantine

COVID-19 may have changed the way volunteers meet and fundraise in the community but one thing that hasn’t changed is the resilience and determination of volunteers.

The community spirit of West Australian Lions volunteers has been brightening up the days for children in hotel quarantine.

Lions Clubs in Western Australia were contacted by the Department of Communities in 2020, regarding concerns around the health and wellbeing of children in quarantine.

Lions volunteers across the state quickly swung into action and raised funds to supply packages of books, puzzles and games tailored to different age groups.

Hundreds of care packages have been delivered to children in quarantine by Lions Clubs in Western Australia.

Several families have contacted the Lions project team to express their thanks and provide comment on the support they have received.

Matthew Morgan and his family decided to move back to Perth after living in Texas for the last 10 years. Children Amelia (8), Jakub (5) and Isabel (3), although excited to celebrate Christmas in Australia, had found it difficult passing the time in their hotel. A couple of days into their isolation there was a knock on the door and Matt was delighted to see three activity packages. The children were ecstatic with their new-found fun, as were the parents.

“We received three amazing packages of toys and books for my kids! They were so excited, and I’m so grateful. I really appreciate the effort taken to put these together and bring them to us, and I’m also really heartened to know that there are people out there who are thinking of us – even if we haven’t met yet!” said Matt.

Mother Martina Ricciardi is isolating with her two-year old son Benjamin and was also very grateful for the surprise gift at her door.

“I feel that the language makes it difficult for me to express how grateful I am for everything you do for the well-being of me and my son. Benjamin woke up today with a big smile and still did not discover the blocks or the bubbles! We have so many things to play and have fun with thanks to everyone who donated,” she said.

The project concept has been promoted to Lions Districts in other States around Australia.