Newbridge Kildare Lions Club. (By Club president Shane O'Connor)
Our Club was chartered in 1976 as Club Number 32964
In December 1996 every Christmas card and letter issued from Newbridge Post Office was franked with a special postmark celebrating the 20th anniversary of the foundation of Newbridge Kildare Lions Club. The first franked letter was a Christmas card on behalf of the Club to Mrs Rose O’Loughlin, owner of Hotel Keadeen. Her late husband, Joe, had accepted the club charter as first president at a dinner in the hotel on 14 December 1976. The Club was sponsored by Athy Lions Club represented by John Watchorn. The original charter, listing the founder members, still hangs just inside the entrance to the hotel, under the emblem of Lions International. Of those twenty three members eight are still in the club. The club meets on the first Wednesday of the month in Keadeen Hotel, Newbridge, Co Kildare.
Charter Members meeting 14th December 1976. Hotel Keadeen Newbridge.
Back Row: Nicky Hanrahan, Pat Reidy, Brendan O’Flynn, Tom Healy (decd) Eric Wallace, Eamon Murphy, Eddie Tucker.
Centre Row: Mick Finlay, John Dardis, John McLoughlin, Shane O’Connor, Paddy Costogan, Paddy Beirne, Herbie Chapman, Ken Dunne,
Front Row: Sean Keegan (Decd) Ciaran O’Grady, Mattie Melia, District Govenor, Joe O’Loughlin (Decd), Pat Maginn, Denis Fay, Donal Shannon,
Not in Photo, Michael McWey, Paul McCluskey
Joe O’Loughlin went on to serve as president for a second year. His portrait hangs in the hotel as a reminder to members of his initiative. He would have been proud of the Club fundraising record to date of over one million euro.
Lions International was founded by a successful businessman named Melvyn Jones in 1917 in the USA with a view to putting something back into society. It now has about 1.5 million members world wide in over 150 countries. Jones decided that the emphasis in his organisation would be on service, with the motto “We serve.” So the fledgling Newbridge Kildare Lions Club set about examining how best to serve the community. Over the years many service projects have been undertaken but it quickly became clear that effective service costs money. So inevitably fundraising has become a major priority of the club.
The first project undertaken was a charity auction held in Newbridge town hall on Sunday 29th May 1977. Members had scoured the towns and surrounding areas for surplus furniture, white goods and bric-a-brac of all shapes and sizes, including no fewer than fifty push-model lawnmowers lined up for the off. Members wondered how on earth we could shift such a mass of seemingly unauctionable merchandise. We needn’t have worried. Much to our relief the place was cleared by 5pm. The take was £1,895 in old money: over 2,000 in euro. Our confidence boosted, the club never looked back and a series of fundraisers followed down the years - strawberry fairs, duck derbies on the Liffey, poker classics, fashion shows, concerts, table quizzes, race nights – a variety of new methods or raising money to meet the needs of the less fortunate in society as highlighted by social workers with a detailed knowledge of need in the area. Club members always marvel at the generosity of the local people.
As time went by certain projects proved to be annual successes, such as the Christmas Food appeal, a national Lions project that has been organised by the 116 clubs all over Ireland, north and south, for over twenty years; the ever-popular school children’s cycle rally, recently converted for safety reasons to a walk on the Curragh; golf classics, and in recent years the very successful Cheltenham racing forum, now a Cheltenham Gold Cup day lunch.
A good example of the kind of service project for which funds are essential was our Millennium Project – the sponsorship of an arts room in the successful riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge. And members derive warm satisfaction from entertaining sixty old folk from St Vincent’s, Athy to the Curragh races twice a year. For many years the club funded a holiday in Butlins for a group of local people who would otherwise not enjoy a break. Since Butlins holiday camp closed those breaks now take place in Kerdiffstown.
As well as the local dimension, Lions clubs observe their international obligation by supporting such third world projects as Sight First. The Club also subscribes to LCIF, Lions Clubs International Foundation, which in case of emergency or disaster can raise over $100million rapidly for a specific sudden need anywhere in the world.
The national economy has made significant advances in recent years and commentators often state that we now enjoy close to full employment. Be that as it may, it is clear that the rising economic prosperity has not extended to everyone and real hardship is still a reality for many people. The Lions Club is not the only local organisation devoted to helping those in need. It cooperates with many such groups and, with the help of the generosity of sponsors and supporters, it plans to continue its good work into the future.