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Recycling and TV bingos: how local Lions Clubs help others

Contributed by S.L. Furedi
Local lions take turns sorting bottles donated at the Sparwood Transfer Station. (Photo contributed by S.L. Furedi)

Contributed by S.L. Furedi

Sparwood Lions Club

The Sparwood Lions are beginning to gear up for their annual Lions TV Bingo fundraisers, a popular weekly distraction during the winter months that helps numerous local groups with funding.

Club President Ken Holberton says the club had to shut the program down early last year due to Covid-19 restrictions but have been working on ways to safely start back up again, hopefully in November.

“So many people are asking when we’re starting up again, and we know many groups rely on that fundraising, so we had to make it happen.”

The blackout bingos, with winning payouts often totalling more than $1,000, are shown on Shaw Community Channel 10 and Shaw Blue Sky 105 every Sunday night at 7 p.m., with a local group or charity selected as the recipient. The club has raised more than a quarter of a million dollars since 2013 through this program.

“We’ll be selling the tickets through some of the local businesses, and the sponsor groups will have tickets for sale, as well,” says Holberton. “They only cost $3 each, so it’s cheap entertainment for an hour, with the added bonus you just might win. Some of our winners have been incredibly generous in the past and donated back their winnings to the club or the sponsor group.”

Throughout the year, the Sparwood Lions have also been fundraising through their never-ending bottle drive. A recycling bin, built and donated by the Fernie Lions Club, was placed at the entrance to the Sparwood Transfer Station and the club members take turns emptying it as it fills up. Holberton says the club has earned thousands of dollars this way.

“It’s a great way to bring in a few dollars every day which we can then put towards local projects. Just this summer we had a memorial bench installed at the Sparwood Skate Park. We turned bottles into something that benefits our community.”

The club also participates in a recycling project that reaches out well beyond the local community.

Lions Clubs around the world have been meeting a challenge presented to them in 1925, when Helen Keller charged them to become ‘knights for the blind in the crusade against darkness’.

Sparwood Lions Glen and Jeanette Leyden recently took 600 pairs of donated used glasses and lenses from Sparwood and Elkford to the Canadian Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centre (CLERC) in Calgary. This is just a small portion of the prescription eyewear donated locally over the years.

Holberton says the program is a small project for the Lions of the Elk Valley that has enormous rewards for those it helps.

“We all know vision is an important part of our lives in so many ways. Knowing we help give that back to people around the world is amazing, and it’s a great way to recycle those used glasses so many of us have lying around the house.”

CLERC is a volunteer-run program that has provided more than five million pairs of glasses to recipients world-wide. The program started in 1996, when the Alberta Government supplied a facility where Corrections officers and volunteer offenders receive, sort, sanitize, repair, and read for prescription the donated glasses. CLERC is one of 18 distribution centres worldwide.

The Lions provide funding and oversee the program, as well as the collecting and distribution of glasses.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 950 million people around the world need glasses, but either can’t afford them or don’t have access to an optician. This impacts their safety, and ability to study or work. Recipients have included countries such as Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, El Salvador, Ghana, Haiti, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Samoa, Tanzania, Togo, and Zambia.

To donate used prescription eyewear to the Lions Clubs, in Sparwood deposit them in the submission box located in the Greenwood Mall next to SaveOn. In Elkford, take them to Rocky Mountain Optometry in Elkford’s Medical Building.

They also send used hearing aids to help people in need, and those can also be donated in the same box (please put them in a bag or container so they remain together).