The Ariss and District Lions Club has a new name as of this month, now being called the Ariss and Maryhill Lions Club, due to its meeting location at Heritage Park Community Centre.
Past district governor, Larry Wainwright, said they used to meet at Kurtz Auction Barn. When Brian Kurtz sold the business, the usage of the building changed and they had to find a new place to meet.
“It was then the feeling of the club that if we’re going to be meeting there, when we did Ariss and District, the district basically covered the area around Ariss, which included, obviously, Maryhill, so we just requested it be the Ariss and Maryhill Lions Club,” Wainwright explained. “The fact that we were meeting there, it was the feeling of the members and the executive that we should be incorporating the name Maryhill in.”
They chartered with 26 members in 2011 and have 24 right now, with some more transferring in soon. They started as the Ariss and District Lions branch club in 2009 with seven members. When they brought in two members in 2011 for a total of 21, they finally had enough to charter it. Todd Wilson, of Elmira inducted the members.
Wainwright likes to tell the story of how it all came to be.
“It started with a hat. The fellow that followed me as governor was from Hillsborough and he does landscaping and decks and all that outdoors stuff and there was a house in Ariss that somebody had put a car through a hedge,” Wainwright explained. “So Doug was there with his backhoe and doing some work there and like any other small community, fire up the big engine and everyone wants to see what’s happening. There were five guys there and Doug was wearing his Lions hat. So the question came up about Lions, and how they go about becoming Lions or contributing.”
He phoned Wainwright to arrange a meeting with the interested Lions members, and the rest is history. The first initiative the club did as a branch was pledge to sponsor the Royal Distributing Athletic Performance Centre in Martin, formally titled the Fieldhouse. They pledged $15,000 over 10 years for that. They also paid for the awning for the Heritage Park Community Centre in September of last year.
“We did our first golf tournament and one of the ideas when we chartered by one of the members at that time that had shown interest was to put on a family day at the new facility in Martin,” Wainwright said. “We held our first family fun day with 10 members. We’ve done a couple New Years dances, we’ve done fish frys. We’re back doing the fish fry once a month in Maryhill.”
They also were responsible for donating a three-wheeled, specially built bicycle for a child with autism in Ariss. But one of their largest undertakings has been the dog guides program. Wainwright knows just how important that service is, as he received his dog guide for vision, Otis, in April of 2014.
“The club has taken on a challenge over the next 10 years, more or less, to raise the $58,000 required to sponsor one of each of the six dog guides in the six programs that the Lions Foundation of Canada now provides dogs for,” Wainwright said.
The annual Purina Walk for Dog Guides in Maryhill will be June 7 from 1-2 p.m. at Maryhill Heritage Park. Elmira is holding theirs on May 31 at 9 a.m., starting at 20 Arthur St. North.
“Over four years the club has done extremely well and really been involved in the communities for sure, and throughout the district,” Wainwright said. “It just made common sense if we’re going to be holding our meetings in Maryhill that we should let Maryhill know that we’re not just meeting, we are just as much a part of their community as we are of the Ariss community.”