After more than 40 years serving the Tillsonburg area, the Tillsonburg Lioness Club has officially folded.
The club, which started in April 1979 with 33 members under the leadership of Pat Cook, initially included many wives of local Lions, said charter member Indira Reynolds, as well as some other people who wanted to start a women’s club and do something for the community.
“Just looking for something special to do,” said Reynolds. “It started out really large and I think at one time we were probably up to over 40 members. Unfortunately those days are all gone.”
“Of course in those days we couldn’t be a Lion,” noted Nancy Lester, who joined the local club about 15 years ago.
“That’s right, we couldn’t be a Lion then,” said Reynolds.
“That’s changed, now,” said Lester.
When the Lioness club formally closed in May 2021, they had about 13 active members – active before COVID-19, which put club meetings and fundraising efforts on hold since spring 2020.
“Aging membership, and you just can’t be as active in it… not enough people to do fundraising,” said Reynolds. “It’s not so easy now to join a service club and do things. It’s just that much harder now.”
It’s a common problem for many service clubs, including the Tillsonburg Kiwanis Club, which celebrated 60 years of service in 2015 and closed soon after.
“Covid has really mucked things up (for service clubs), it really has,” said Lester.
Lester and Reynolds agreed the loss of the Lioness club, and its fundraising which was a club priority, will impact the community in a variety of ways.
“We donated to so many things, so many Tillsonburg things, and that’s come to an end,” said Lester.
Funds were raised through golf tournaments, garden tours, Christmas home tours, bake sales in the mall, and the big one – the Spring Fling or ladies night, a catered event at the Tillsonburg Community Centre that included entertainment, silent auction and 50/50 draw.
“That (Spring Fling) became the major fundraiser in the later years,” said Reynolds. “It took several different forms over the years. Sometimes we had an entertainer and dinner, or it may have been a fashion show, and we always did well on it.”
But the Lioness, who met monthly, did more than raise funds. They enjoyed fun times going to Theatre Tillsonburg, horse races in London, trips to Niagara Falls, shopping trips to the US, and a trip to visit a Tim Hortons children’s camp.
Along the way they donated to service dogs, Glendale High School scholarships, Salvation Army, Helping Hand Food Bank, Sakura House, ALS, the Alzheimer Society, MS and one of their main focuses, the town’s Summer Camp for children at the Tillsonburg Community Centre.
The final Spring Fling, celebrating the club’s 40th anniversary in 2019, included a large donation to the summer camp.
A few former Lioness might join the Tillsonburg Lions Club, said Reynolds, but she will be pursuing other interests for now.
“I think there were some members who really didn’t want to give it up,” said Reynolds, “but we just couldn’t go on that way.”
“I think when Covid is over we try to still get together, go out for supper or something,” said Lester. “This isn’t the time right now.”