Lions Club building their legacy

Bob and Linda Engelbrecht

Being a Lion is a full-time occupation for retirees Bob and Linda Engelbrecht – the Sunningdale retirees give of their time unhesitatingly for many worthwhile causes.

The couple run the Milnerton Lions, and since returning to their beloved Cape two and a half years ago from Johannesburg, have been involved in many projects, from helping schoolchildren read the blackboard to treating the needy to Christmas meals and presents.

Mr Engelbrecht has been a Lion for 25 years and in July will take over as president of the local chapter after acting as vice president, while Ms Engelbrecht is the community services chairperson.

Lions Clubs International this year celebrates its centenary, and in South Africa, the international goodwill organisation celebrates its 60th anniversary.

On October 14, 1957, South Africa became the 79th country to join Lions and the first Lions club was founded in Cape Town.

At the end of April, Bob and Linda will be joining hundreds of other Lions at the Lions International Convention at the Ritz Hotel in Sea Point where members from all over South Africa, Namibia and Swaziland will attend.

In April, the Milnerton Lions Club will celebrate 56 years of service.

Ms Engelbrecht says, “We are continuing a proud and worthwhile tradition by tending to the less fortunate communities. We support, among others, the Drommedaris Social Housing Scheme, African Tails, Reyger Court in Brooklyn, Huis Zonnekus, Little Lambs of Dunoon, Melkbos Seapark Old Age Home, the Philadelphia township close to Melkbos and the socially disadvantaged living in the Brooklyn area.”

Asked what drives their passion for the service organisation, she replies: “We love serving communities and, as an ongoing commitment, it becomes very rewarding.”

Whether you have one hour or one day a week, it doesn’t matter as it all helps, she says.

“For the centenary, we are keen to show how we are leaving a legacy.”

An eye-testing project is just one way that Milnerton Lions will be remembered in years to come. They changed the lives of 10 children, whose school work was suffering due to poor eyesight, by giving them the correct spectacles.

“We have also held an Easter party at Huis Zonnekus Retirement Home, a Christmas party for domestic workers at the end of last year, Collect-a-Can projects at various shopping malls to collect food for the under-privileged in the Brooklyn area and served Christmas lunch to more than 100 under-privileged people in Brooklyn on Christmas Eve,” Ms Engelbrecht says.

At the Drommedaris Housing Scheme, a seniors’ afternoon is held monthly. “It sounds like hard work, but believe me it is so rewarding and good fun at the same time,” says Ms Engelbrecht.

In Milnerton Ridge, you’ll find the Milnerton Lions clubhouse. The building was donated to Lions in 1976 by Caltex which had used it to house project managers during the construction of the then Caltex Oil Refinery (now Chevron).

In the last two years members have been doing their best with limited funds to refurbish the building.

“We would like to consider the building as our legacy to the community. Obviously we cannot use the funds raised from the public to do these renovations and would like to take this opportunity to ask readers if they could assist in any way. The outside of the structure needs to be attended to as well as the surrounding grounds. We also need to renovate the kitchen which would then enable us to rent out the property for functions,” says Ms Engelbrecht.

* Lions Clubs International will celebrate 100 years of service to the community this year and to mark this Milnerton Lions Club will hold a quiz evening, Who Wants to be a Centennialaire, at the clubhouse, at 109 Milnerton Drive, on Friday March 10, at 7.30pm. Take your own snacks but there will be a cash bar with proceeds going towards Lions’ projects. Call Linda Engelbrecht at 082 331 2877 or 021 554 6115 or email for details.

The concept of Lions Clubs was founded by a Chicago businessman, Melvin Jones. He encouraged members of his local business clubs to reach beyond their business issues and to also address the betterment of their communities and of communities around the world.

Mr Jones’s group of businesses, called The Business Circle of Chicago, agreed and so the first Lions Club was born.

The first meeting took place on June 7, 1917 in Chicago and now the organisation has 1.4 million members, with more than 43 300 clubs in 714 districts covering 182 countries and geographic areas.

To commemorate its centenary, Lions Clubs International set a goal to serve more than 100 million people by June 2018.

This has already been exceeded and Ms Engelbrecht says the organisation is now hoping to double the number of people served by this date.

Lions clubs were also asked to participate in the four Centennial Service Challenge Campaigns during the celebrations: “Engaging our Youth”, “Sharing the Vision, (sight-related projects)”, “Relieving the Hunger and “Protecting the Environment”.

Lions took up sight conservation as their major goal after a speech given by Helen Keller at the Lions International Convention held in 1925.

At that time, Ms Keller challenged the Lions to become “Knights of the Blind”, a challenge that has become a rallying cry for Lions projects around the world. Lions also pursue many other projects such as drug awareness programmes and diabetes awareness projects.