Vernon Lions Club members Simon Dufresne (left), Bobbe MacKenzie, Brian Willows and president Sharon Cain have put together a display at 105 3301 30th Ave. in celebration of the club’s 75th anniversary. A limited celebration for current and past Lions takes place Nov. 19. Register by calling Brian at 250-542-8975. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Vernon Lions Club members Simon Dufresne (left), Bobbe MacKenzie, Brian Willows and president Sharon Cain have put together a display at 105 3301 30th Ave. in celebration of the club’s 75th anniversary. A limited celebration for current and past Lions takes place Nov. 19. Register by calling Brian at 250-542-8975. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Okanagan service club marks milestone anniversary

Vernon Lions celebrate 75 years amid COVID-19

A long-time group of community givers is shining for its diamond anniversary.

Since being formed Nov. 8, 1945, the Vernon Lions Club is celebrating 75 years of service.

The club marks the occasion with a special event for lions and former lions members Nov. 19 at the Eagles Hall. Due to COVID-19, attendance is limited, and those wishing to attend can contact event co-chair Brian Willows at 250-542-8975.

The public is also being treated to a display of the club’s history. The Lions have been given use of vacant space in downtown Vernon at 105 3301 30th Ave. For the month of November, area residents and visitors can check out a window display at the space, near the new Service Canada office.

“We started out with 23 members in 1945,” president Sharon Cain said. “The reason it started was that they wanted to do things in their own communities and develop their own communities.”

The club offers a range of services, from raising funds for Camp Winfield to supporting diabetes groups and serving up pancake breakfasts at local events. But one of the major causes the Lions is known for getting behind is blindness.

“Hellen Keller spoke at a meeting and names them Knights of the Blind,” Cain said of the blind American author, political activist and lecturer.

Bill MacKenzie was the charter president of the Vernon Lions Club in 1945 and both his daughters, Marnie and Bobbe, are still members. Marnie has lived with sight and hearing issues since childhood and lost her vision in her 30s.

READ MORE: Walking in Heller Keller’s footsteps

The club continues to support vision impairment through various initiatives, including collecting old eyeglasses at collection boxes around town.

But much of what the local service group does has been curbed in this milestone year.

“The year of 2020 has been difficult for local services clubs because of COVID-19,” Willows said.

The Lions were forced to curtail many of its activities and projects but has managed to undertake a couple of successful bottle drives, which will continue.

READ MORE: Vernon Lions Club holds bottle drive for local food bank

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