Lion-hearted citizens have been serving the Guyra community for nearly 45 years, but the Lions Club needs fresh blood if it is to survive.
"Our members are down, and we desperately need new members,” said Jim Betts, who has been involved with the volunteer organisation for 28 years, including two terms as president, a position he will take up again in June.
The branch is part of Australia’s largest service club, with more than 1,200 Lions clubs in Australia and Papua New Guinea, involved with disaster and emergency relief, medical research, and community service.
When Mr Betts first joined, there were 22 members in Guyra, most of whom were active. Now, there are 19 on the books, but only nine active members.
“There’s a completely different lifestyle in the community these days,” Mr Betts said. “People are a lot busier, and there’s a shortage of time to be involved!”
Over the last four and a half decades, the Lions have worked hard in Guyra. They gave donations to build a sports complex, to install piped oxygen in all aged care rooms at the hospital, and for a niche wall for ashes at the cemetery.
They have a catering shed at the Guyra Show, where they serve chips and corn. In winter, they sit on street stalls and sell tickets in loads of wood. They hold raffles to raise money for causes throughout the year, including an Easter raffle which will be drawn on Maundy Thursday.
They help people around the town.
They supported Guyra local Hunter Davidson earlier this month to enter the Youth of the Year contest, which helps older teenagers to develop leadership abilities.
They helped local girl Sara Brazier swim at the Special Olympics Asia Pacific games in 2013 and again in Adelaide this April.
Only this Sunday, they organised their yearly Mystery Tour for senior citizens.
“We put an ad in the paper that the trip's on,” Mr Betts said. “We do not let them know where they're going; they're just on the bus, and wherever it leads them, that's where they go. They enjoy the social aspect of it, as well, having a good talk with their mates and people they haven't seen for a bit. It's just like an outing!”
This year, the excursion was to have morning tea in Ben Lomond, catered by the Catholic Church auxiliary, to raise funds for a toilet block, and then to Glen Innes, for lunch at the Lioness Club, and a visit to the museum.
“They thoroughly enjoyed it. A couple of people said we've driven past this museum hundreds of times, and didn't even know it was there.”
But the Lions may be endangered in Guyra. The club is having trouble attracting young members. Numbers have more than halved in the last three decades; older members retire or die, but are not replaced.
The club has tried recruiting retirees, to no avail.
“We'd like to think that they'll join,” Mr Betts said, “but people we've approached have been busy with different other things. We're going to have to try something different, but what I don't know, to encourage them. It is to be hoped that we do get some more, cos it's a fair load on the members that are there.”
Members’ ages range from 84 to early 50s, and only two members are under 60. The youngest member is David Mills, 51, who runs the High on Bikes shop in Bradley Street.
He joined 15 years ago to help the community, provide opportunities for school prizes, and meet new people, and has been found his membership very satisfying.
“They’re a good group of people that are really community minded,” he said. “It’s not a tough job, by any means, and helping the community gives you a good sense of wellbeing. It's very easy to join; you've only got to put your hand up!”
Mr Mills acknowledged that it’s harder for people of working age to be involved.
“A lot of families these days are stretched to the limit, and time-poor, but we've got to remember I am too, and have got a young family, and I seem to be able to make time to do it, so if there were younger members that came and joined, we could always look at ways of adapting.”
The Lions Club meets at the Guyra Bowling and Recreation Club, on the first and third Thursday of every month, at 7pm for a 7.30pm dinner. For more information, their Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/Guyra-Lions-Club-344024089090134/