Neil Vanderhorst has moved through the ranks of the Lions Club swiftly.
Since joining the 100 Mile House Lions Club eight years ago, he has been secretary and president. Now he is the zone chairperson, responsible for all Lions Clubs from Williams Lake to Clinton.
“It’s good to step up and help the Lions. All the clubs individually run quite well and the Lions chairperson’s job is basically to help the clubs communicate with each other so they’re working on the same page,” he said explaining his new role.
The four clubs in his zone are the 100 Mile, 108 Mile, Forest Grove and Williams Lake clubs. To become the chairperson, one must be a president or secretary at a local club.
Vanderhorst, an optometrist, joined the Lions because they help people with vision problems. The club in Edmonton is helping his uncle who is blind and requires a guide dog. When Vanderhorst completed his optometry degree and moved here, it seems like joining the club was a good fit after he attended some meetings.
One of the major things he wants to tackle is the volunteer problem plaguing service clubs and other community-based organizations.
“I would say there is a definite decline in volunteers in some clubs, so I would like to have enough help and support for the clubs that are struggling from some of the more active and stronger clubs with more numbers,” he said.
Recently, the Interlakes Lions Club announced they would be shutting down due to their struggle with finding new members to replace the ageing ones. According to the new zone chairperson, the Interlakes club was one of the more active ones in the area and had over 20 volunteers at one point.
“It’s a shame,” he said. “The bulk of the membership got older and there weren’t more volunteers from the community, the younger generation, able to help. I think that as the community realizes all the wonderful things the club does in the community and now that Interlakes will be missing activities – the club no longer able to put those on, that more young and middle-aged people will see the need and the benefit to help us.”
The clubs are adapting to the fact young families are often busy with the daily grind life brings and are now putting the emphasis on members helping out whenever they can rather than attendance and participation in events being mandatory or heavily encouraged like it was when membership wasn’t a problem.
According to Vanderhorst, all it takes is finding a good group to have fun for members to stick around, extending an arm out to any potential members, whether they are from the shutting down Interlakes club or potentially interested people.