Lions Jack McLaren (left) and Gord Saunders have been honoured for their 50 years of community service with the Russell Lions Club. Van Dusen photo

RUSSELL – The Russell Lions Club recognized two of its oldest and finest recently, giving both Jack McLaren and Gord Saunders 50-year certificates of appreciation. The local certificates will be followed up with inter­national pins honouring their commitment.

Although it happens from time to time, honouring 50 years of service remains a rare event. Most Lions members join the service club later in life after raising their families, and simply don’t have enough years to reach the milestone.

McLaren is 81 and Saunders is now 79; however, neither consummate vol­unteer is about to retire any time soon. Both like what they do too much to pull out and they gain a sense of pride and a sense of accom­plishment from their duties with the Lions…along with a chance to give back to the community.

“It’s all about your health,” says McLaren, and Saunders agrees. “If it stays with you, then you’re able to carry on.”

Adds Saunders: “My days of launching big projects are pretty much done but I’ll attend the regular meetings and help out where I can.” He points out that he has registered a perfect atten­dance record through 46 of 50 years.

As opposed to today’s usual practice of joining later in life, they entered the club as young men in the days when life was a little more leisurely and they had time for community involvement. Says McLaren: “Things seem to be so hectic for young families today it’s amazing they can get involved at all.” Still, Russell Lions have always kept the roster up to around an optimum 35 members, with the Lions brand still serving as a major draw.  

Coming up through the ranks side by side – with Saunders serving as Lions president three times and McLaren twice – there have been many major projects that both men have worked on including, back in the day, organizing an annual fundraising fastball tour­nament, installing the first set of lights at the ball park, contributing $30,000 to Russell Arena construction, helping finance the Russell swimming pool, establishing the continuing annual Lobster Feast 34 years ago, and acquiring a storage unit for donated medical equipment which is loaned free of charge upon request.

The medical equipment bank is a great service, both men state with pride. Rather than being forced to buy a wheelchair, walker, or hospital bed they may only need temporarily, patients can borrow from the Lions equipment bank; all are welcome, including those who don’t live in Russell Township.

And if you’ve ever won­dered who changes the information on the Lions signboard at the west entrance to the village, it’s McLaren, the Lion living closest to that location.