Athy Lions Club is part of a worldwide organisation which prides itself on being the largest charitable organisation in the world. Forty three years ago the first meeting to establish a branch of the Lions Club in Athy was hosted by the Kilkenny Lions Club in the Leinster Arms Hotel. The Club’s Charter, dated 29th June 1971, is now on display in Athy Heritage Centre and records the names of the twenty four founding members of the club. The first President of Athy Lions was the late Des McHugh of Duke Street and happily four of those original members have maintained their membership of the club over the years. Ken Turner, Michael Dwyer, Gerry Cleary and Trevor Shaw are founder members and as such the longest serving members of the club which meets once a month in the Clanard Court Hotel.
During the past year the Athy Lions have provided assistance to a large number of community based organisations in South Kildare. These include the Care of the Elderly, Athy Carmelites Fund, Athy Soccer Club, Barrowline Water Sports, The Special Olympics Group, Athy Wheelchair Association and the local Mental Health Group. In recognition of their contribution to the development of cultural activities in the community the Lions Club also gave grants to the Shackleton Autumn School, the Bluegrass Festival and the organisers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Apart from financial assistance to those various local groups the Lions members made their own individual contribution by way of voluntary work with a number of community health projects. At the recent County Show held in the Geraldine Sports complex Lions members manned a stand where opticians offered free eye testing. This was part of a nationwide Lions project called ‘Fight for Sight’ which resulted in 10% of those tested being referred for glaucoma related treatment.
Athy Lions Club with the help of Lions members from neighbouring clubs offered free diabetic screening tests at the National Ploughing Championships when they were held in Cardenton. This initiative was continued last year by Lions Clubs in the South East where the 2013 championships were held. Another unique community health project undertaken by the Lions Club locally is the ‘Message in a Bottle’ scheme which Lions International initiated some time ago. Its purpose is to provide information on medication needs and allergies of people living alone for ambulance personnel or other medical personnel attending the person at home in an emergency. The information on medicines and allergies are noted and put in a bottle to be stored in a fridge, the front door of which displays a sticker indicating the presence of the ‘Message in a Bottle’. Ambulance staff and medical emergency staff are familiar with the scheme and find it most helpful in averting possible medical mishaps due to lack of knowledge as to an individual’s medication or allergies. Supplies of the kit are available free of charge from the Lions Book Shop which is located alongside the Post Office in Duke Street or from local pharmacies.
The Lions Book Shop opened last year in vacant premises kindly made available by Shaws and is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday inclusive. It is staffed on a voluntary basis by honorary Lions Member Alice Rowan who over the past year has turned the shop into a veritable treasure trove of second hand books. It has proved to be a most successful venture, providing a useful and much desired facility for readers and book lovers alike.
Perhaps the most unique project undertaken by the local Lions Club since its foundation was the provision of sheltered housing in the grounds of St. Vincent’s Hospital in 1989. This project initiated by the Lions Club in conjunction with the Health Board resulted in the building of ten houses which are available to elderly persons. The houses so provided have proved to be a wonderful addition to the community based health facilities in Athy and South Kildare.
The work of the Lions Club seldom receives publicity as much of the good work of its members is done quietly and discreetly. Given the publicity regarding the use of charitable donations to meet salaries and administrative staff of some charities Athy Lions can proudly claim that ‘we care about every cent’. The Lions Club helps the local community in a number of ways with every cent collected going directly to good causes. Not one cent is spent on administration, the cost of which is borne by the members themselves.
Upcoming Lions Club events to raise funds for local charities include a cycle rally in September and an auction in November. The Club also has a webpage which you can access at www.athylionsclub.com.