One of the projects I had in mind when Belfast Lions Club was revived three years ago was the ‘Message in a Bottle’ scheme which I had been encouraged to adopt by Dan Hurst of Dún Laoghaire Lions. With their help, the Club took on the scheme as its first service project. It provides a potentially life-saving object, a bottle with a form inside carrying a person’s medical details, for those most in need, such as elederly people living on their own. The bottle is placed in the refrigerator and a special green sticker is stuck on the door and near the front door in order to alert emergency services such as paramedics that this important information is safely stored inside.
Belfast Lions Club with the help of its parent club, Antrim Lions, acquired the bottles from England, using some of the funds raised during a table quiz in May 2011. In December 2011 the Club was invited to share the PSNI community safety stand at the Policing and Community Safety Partnership annual winter safety event at Belfast City Hall. The Club took its own stand at the same event the following year and in that period distributed 2,000 bottles to individuals either directly or with the help of groups such as the Cedar Foundation, Good Morning North Belfast and Good Morning West Belfast.
This year the event takes place again at BELFAST CITY HALL from 10am to 1pm tomorrow, Wednesday 4th December. There will also be a meeting of Belfast Lions Club at 7:30pm at the Wellington Park hotel for anyone interested in hearing about our projects for 2014. These will hopefully include a new and extended phase of the message in a bottle project and fund-raising initiatives on behalf of Diabetes UK (NI) and Marie Curie cancer care (Great Daffodil Appeal). We also hope to continue to collect unwanted spectacles with the help of Belfast City Council and to send them to the depot operated by Chichester Lions Club in England for re-use in developing countries. Tomorrow at Belfast City Hall we will have a box for collecting pairs of unwanted glasses (but not the spectacle cases).
My hopes for the Belfast Lions Club of which I am now Secretary were set out in a speech to the Multiple District 105 annual convention at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast in May 2011 when Councillor Pat Convery was Lord Mayor:
“Lord Mayor, Chairman of Council, International President, other distinguished guests, and fellow Lions. First I would like to thank District Governor Terence Mangan for asking me to perform this task. I am privileged to do so and it is with a certain amount of nervousness but also pride that I now welcome you, Councillor Pat Convery. Like yourself, I am a blow-in, who has been here only 26 years or so. Whereas you came from another part of NI, County Derry, I came from Dublin to cover the troubles for RTÉ News as a TV reporter. Both of us, I hope have come to admire this city which forty years ago was torn apart by violence and now seeks a new way forward in peaceful times. “Pro tanto quid retribuamus” is the motto: In return for so much, what shall we give back. A very appropriate one also for Lions, whose function as a voluntary group is service to the community. That service was inspired in this city since 1958 by a businessman who many of you will remember, Bert Mason. He has a special place in Lions history as he went on to become International President in 1984. He was a founder member of the Belfast Lions Club, the third in this district to be chartered after Dublin and Cork. One of their first schemes was a meals on wheels service in East Belfast, which was later extended to other areas. From a small beginning a significant structure was built and lasted for over forty years.
Bert who came from Donaghadee passed to his eternal reward in 2007. It was his view that Lionism is one of the greatest unifying forces in the world, bringing together people from different cultures, politics and religions, all answering the call to serve.
I hope that spirit he spoke about will live on in the revived Belfast Lions Club. We were set up in February and our first public fundraising event was two days ago, a table quiz which has brought in over £1,000 to start our work of service. Various projects will now be considered such as the message in a bottle scheme and the collection of unused spectacles. There is also the service of a soup run performed at weekends by one of our members, helping the homeless, especially those from abroad. It’s the other face of Belfast but one to which this club must reach out if we are to live up to the early ideals of its predecessor. If there is any practical way in which we can work with Belfast City Council on some of the schemes then we would be interested to discuss this at some stage.
During your year of office you have focused on making Belfast a safe, clean, prosperous and a united city and attempted to revitalise it. I hope Belfast Lions will now be able to make a contribution to those important goals. I now call on you Lord Mayor to open formally the convention of multiple district 105, British Isles & Ireland”.