Canso Lions celebrate 50th anniversary

By Lois Ann Dort    

CANSO – The Canso Lions Club is celebrating a major milestone this spring; their 50th anniversary. The club received its charter on April 25, 1968 with 21 members. One of that number, who is still an active club member today, is Buzz Lumsden.

Lumsden spoke to The Journal last week about the early years of the organization and how it has changed with the passage of time.

“I was young and just starting a family and a lot were in the same boat and there was a lot of things to be done in Canso,” said Lumsden of the motivation behind the creation of a Lions Club in the area in the late '60s.

Meetings were initially held in the Mermaid Lodge and the call went out for volunteers. Enough members soon joined to receive recognition as a charter member of Lions Club International.

“A lot of the original projects were infrastructure; playgrounds, the arena, ball field and the Seamen’s Memorial. We focused on projects to provide facilities,” said Lumsden, noting that Canso, although a significantly sized town, had few such amenities to offer residents at that time.

Lions Club meetings moved from the Mermaid Lodge to Phalen Hall and later to Canso High School. After years of making do, the Lions decided they needed a home to call their own and constructed the Canso Lions Den in 1983 under the term of King Lion Ab Winmill. The facility has served not only as a meeting place for the club but also as a venue for numerous community events, such as the recent Eastern Lobster Run, community suppers, and a reception hall. Lumsden said of the building: “We built it ourselves and had it paid off in five years...It's used all the time.”

In its 50th year, the Canso Lions Club has more members than ever before. With many volunteer organizations struggling to keep up membership rolls, the success of the Canso Lions Club, said Lumsden, lies in commitment and communication.

“There is a rapport with the community to start with. You have to have that support and make sure that the public knows what the club is doing,” stated Lumsden, who noted that the club is very good at getting information out to the community about their activities.

Speaking about membership, Lumsden, who has held the position of King Lion five times over the history of the Canso club, said, “You have to have a group of people that are dedicated. It is a service club and as long as members think they are doing a service for someone else, then the Lions Club will continue.”

Service in the community has taken many forms for the Canso Lions, from fundraising for the local hospital, schools, daycare, library, arena, and fire department to erecting the Seamen’s Memorial in 1978. The community has benefited in many ways from the volunteer efforts of the Lions.

Community needs have changed and the Lions Club has changed to meet those needs over the years. The focus has shifted from providing much-needed infrastructure to aiding people in need, particularly those in who are facing hardship due to medical problems. Lumsden said this shift reflects the changing demographics of Canso and surrounding areas.

“I think the people in the area know that the Lions Club is there and if they need help – if it is not provided by the government-- they can turn to us.”

This month when the Canso Lions Club meets to celebrate their Charter Night, the biggest beneficiaries will be, as always, the residents of the area in which they serve.