By Jaymie White
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
PORT AUX BASQUES – The Port Aux Basques Lions Club has two new reasons to celebrate. Last month, two ladies were recognized for their 50 years of service.
Edna Sheaves and Marie Billard were members even before women were officially allowed to be Lions, which was originally a men’s organization, and the women became part of the Lionettes. Both of their husbands were members of the Lions Club, and Sheaves said her husband eventually became a district governor for Lions International.
“My husband, Roy, he was involved with the Lions Club, and Marie’s husband, they were family, and he was the one who introduced Roy to it, and after that me and Marie joined the Lionettes at that time,” said Sheaves. “International decided that all of the Lionettes could become Lioness, and that was in 1975. We were then a part of International and the ladies were granted membership into the Lions Club in 1987. We were known as the Lioness Auxilliary Program. That was in 1991. We had the bridging program in 1996 and could take the years of service we had from the Lionettes and Lioness to the Lions Club. That’s when they agreed they would have ladies.”
Sheaves said that when the two joined new members couldn’t just apply, but were required to have a family member, like a husband or brother, as an existing member of the organization in to be considered for entry.
Throughout the years there have been a lot that each of the ladies has participated in with the Lions Club, but Sheaves said there are a few moments that stand out. One of her favourite memories would be the fellowship conferences, and also the many projects that they worked on.
“We did a cookbook where we all brought in recipes and got the cookbook made to sell around the area. At Christmas time we used to do a Christmas cake sale where each of the members would bring in their Christmas baking. We would do cold plate sales and wake-a-thons where we would stay up all night playing cards and games.”
Billard said a lot of what the Lions Club would do was heavily impacted by the pandemic.
“COVID done us in, what we did have. We did a lot of catering. We lost all that during COVID. That’s where most of our fundraising came from.”
Billard said at times it could be difficult to juggle responsibilities like work, family, and the organization, but it was always understood that certain aspects of your life had to outweigh your service.
“It was voluntary service, so family came first. They always said our families came first, so whatever was on the go, we looked to our families and then did what we could for the Lionettes in between all of that, and it worked out good. We stuck it out through thick and thin. It wasn’t all roses.”
Both ladies agreed that being recognized for 50 years of service ‘felt like a dream,’ and made them look back and wonder where the years went.
“Fifty years, like they say, it was like a blink,” said Billard.
Val Clarke said she was delighted to see Sheaves and Billard recognized for their dedication to the Lions Club.
“Fifty years providing service to your community. That speaks volumes to me, and they are both very dedicated. They’ve put a lot of time into the Lions and Lioness’ over the years. How many people get to dedicate 50 years of service to an organization? Not very many I wouldn’t think.”
Clarke said it’s not common anymore to see people remain with an organization for decades.
“Most of the young ones, when they join the Lions, don’t stay around for long periods of time like that. That’s more ‘old school’ I’ll call it. There are people that join the Lions Club. We have members that have been there for 20 years of service. I guess it depends on the individual and how much time you have to put into it, how much you’re committed to what you’re doing and believing in what you’re doing.”
Clarke said that considering the Lions Club was once a men’s organization, the fact that two women are being recognized adds a special significance.
“It speaks volumes. Women are recognized in Lions now, as well as men, and it’s great the Lions have promoted that and continue to honour the members for their years of service. Lions is about giving back and serving your community, so whether you’re female, male, a different gender – it’s immaterial. We’re all one.”