Members of the new Ponoka Lions Club and their wives attended their first convention in 1949 at the posh Trocadero Hotel in Edmonton. Shown in the back row are: Norm and Pearl MacLeod and Mr. and Mrs. Bradden; then seated in front is Walter and Mrs. Young

Members of the new Ponoka Lions Club and their wives attended their first convention in 1949 at the posh Trocadero Hotel in Edmonton. Shown in the back row are: Norm and Pearl MacLeod and Mr. and Mrs. Bradden; then seated in front is Walter and Mrs. Young

Reflections of Ponoka: Ponoka Lions mark 65 years of community service

As the Ponoka Lions Club plan for 2013 they will proudly look back a little and celebrate the active and colorful 65 years

As the Ponoka Lions Club plan for 2013 they will proudly look back a little and celebrate the active and colorful 65 years they have served our community and surrounding districts in so many ways.

Several generations of loyal members and their families have supported the global causes of the International Association of Lions Clubs, as well as taking on many exciting challenges and projects that have and will continue to benefit citizens of all ages for decades in and around Ponoka.

After receiving their official charter from District Governor Lion A. G. Kustine at a gala Dec. 1948 ceremony and banquet at the Elks Hall, the club set out to achieve their prime initiative of creating a better relationship between the town and country, as well as being of ongoing service to the community. The first executive consisted of: president and organizer Norm MacLeod, vice-president Doug Bresee, second vice-president Bruce MacDonald, third vice-president Trevor Jenkins, secretary-treasurer Rees Jones, Lion Tamer Don Hoar, Tale Twister Jack Hoar, and directors Emil Tiltgen, Mike Bures, Jim Easton and Roy Brawn.

Among the most vigorous early projects for the new Ponoka Lions Club included: a cement floor for our community’s first indoor arena, construction of central playground, financial and labour assistance for skating and curling rinks at Mecca Glen, Ferrybank and Calumet, as well as with numerous vital benevolent cases in the area. They also fully equipped a complete room at the first Ponoka General Hospital, grew tons of potatoes and sold them to the public, canvassed for the Red Cross and took on the sponsorship of the Ponoka midget hockey and baseball teams, which carried on for many exciting seasons.

In the early years the Lions were instrumental in encouraging the establishment of Ponoka’s first park on the west side of town, then in 1966 provided the initial $12,000 for development of the project, which was dedicated as Centennial Park in 1967. In 1996 the Lions Club members decided to get involved in the enhancement of the park, an ongoing $250,000 project that resulted in an additional kilometre of paved and lighted pathways, a memorial garden, fences, more picnic shelters, tables and benches, a wheelchair accessible pier to allow everyone to fish near the pond, a lighted entertainment stage and a playground. The magnificent initial refurbishment of what is now the Ponoka Lions Centennial Park was completed in the fall of 1999, and was funded by the Lions ($74,000), the Town of Ponoka ($67,000), and a $105,000 Municipal 2000 grant. The latest addition to the well-used and enjoyed park was the exciting splash park, which was a joint community project, vigorously undertaken by local clubs.

With the ongoing assistance of many year round fund-raising projects, excellent revenue from a previously very strong community bingo program and the dedicated support of the Ponoka Lioness Club and the community, the Ponoka Lions Club has managed to stay strong and continue their many worthwhile and vital programs and new interactive projects to assist their fellow citizens.

Here is a list of that long legacy of giving to the community, to which we will always enjoy and be most appreciative of.

• Another longstanding project for the Lions Club began in 1975 with the purchase of a $16,500 community bus, which to this day has upgraded the fleet and become a colorful ambassador of Ponoka Town and County, and has provided safe and comfortable transportation for thousands of citizens, teams, and groups of all ages throughout our province year-round. There have been many drivers who have kindly taken the bus and passengers thousands of miles to countless events, and the present crew includes Frank Thomisar, Wally Rausch, Ron Buffalo and Murray Dux.

• Donations and efforts for International Lions projects have included: collection of used eye-glasses, K-9 vision program, $12,000 to Lions Quest, the a school project related to adolescents for prevention of drug abuse and encouragement to get along with others, and ongoing sales of Easter Seals, which helped to purchase a $2,900 scooter for a Ponoka youth. Along the way they also sponsored the formation of the Bashaw Lions Club, which is also a very active group.

• The Lions introduced their first All-Girls Rodeo to Ponoka in 1974, an event that carried on for many summers, and added a beer gardens and dance in 1977. The Lions have operated a popular food booth at the Ponoka Stampede as a major fundraiser since early 1950s, and also assisted the Stampede Association with ongoing donations, including $20,000 for a new grandstand ticket booth in 1993.

• Vital donations by the Lions to providing medical equipment around our community have included: $90,000 for a new rescue command unit for the Ponoka Fire Department in 1993 as well as $8,000 for two defibrillators for the ambulance. Ongoing assistance by the Lions for the operation of the Ponoka Hospital has included: $35,000 for new equipment in 1985, eight new air-conditioning units and $47,000 for the construction of the Stars Heli-Port.

• In support of community culture the Lions donated $9,000 to Royal Canadian Legion Branch #65 Air Cadet Squadron for band instruments, as well as an additional $4,000 when the Legion constructed their new building along Highway 2A south. On one occasion they collected $1,800 and a truckload of food for the Ponoka Food Bank, and the Lions lead the festivities each year when the CPR Holiday train came to town.

• There have also been decades of donations by the Ponoka Lions Club for Ponoka and district recreation facilities including: the first mechanical ice machine and electronic score clock, a new PA system for the complex, $27,000 for the aquaplex renovation project, as well as 1,300 hours of painting and labour, and $25,000 for the river valley ball diamonds.

In 1986 the Lions Club International changed their constitution to allow women to become members. Current Ponoka Lions Club members are: Darrell and Vance Adams, Irene Ballant, Bruce Blackmore, Bill Chorney, Rob Gingera, Elgin Grant, Larry Henkleman, Jerry Kawamura, Barry Neath, Bob Peters, Jamil Rawji, Ron Rogeau, Dixie Tyndall, Donna Hopper, Jessica Kolar, Harrison Polson, Ron Buffalo, Len Standing On The Road and Barb Fowell. New members are always welcome.