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Lions club still roaring after 65 years
Club members discuss legacy of first-of-a-kind complex
Members of the Lions Club of Riverside are celebrating its 65th anniversary by continuing to help build futures for individuals locally and across the world.
The club was formed in 1948 and chartered in 1949 after it was sponsored by the Winnipeg Lions Club, making it the second-oldest such club in the city. It currently has around 35 members ranging in age from 18 to 91.
On Thurs., June 20, members will hold a wind-up party, when a number of lions will be presented with awards, said a club official.
For many years, members met in various locations in St. Boniface and St. Vital and now gather in their club room at the ground-breaking Riverside Lions Estates at 188 Worthington Ave. in St. Vital, which was opened in the 1980s.
The 130-suite apartment complex specializes in affordable, barrier-free living for both older adults and adults living with disabilities and offers a number of support services and leisure programming. Riverside Lions Seniors Residences (180 Worthington Ave.) was added more recently.
Longtime member and past-president Len Kalinski said club members had to fight to get the original complex built because of different social attitudes in the 1970s, when he believes individuals living with disabilities were more marginalized in society.
"Back then, the building was one-of-a-kind. The complex is integrated 50/50, so you could find a senior in one suite and a handicapped person in the next. We were focused on integration," Kalinski said.
"The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said it wasn’t possible to integrate the two. We said that’s crazy and with support from people like Lloyd Axworthy we made it happen," he added, noting the suites have doors wide enough for wheelchair access and controlled air conditioning for individuals unable to adjust the controls themselves.
Club member Stan Puchniak credits Kalinski as a "driving force" behind the complex and said the building "broke the mould" when it came to the notion that people living with disabilities had to be segregated. Puchniak has represented the club in the British Virgin Islands.
Club president Gerald Fontaine said the objectives of the club include creating and fostering a spirit of understanding, promoting the principles of good government and good citizenship and taking an active interest in the civic, cultural, social and moral welfare of the community.
Fontaine said club membership is open to men and women by invitation.
Since 2000, the club has been working with a club in India, under the guidance of member Ed Santiago, and has helped build a school and washrooms for learning-impaired girls, as well as a daycare centre for the children of farm workers and a library, Santiago said.
Isla Kadas, president of the Lionelles, which is like "a woman`s auxiliary" and consists mostly of the wives of club members, said her group gives five annual $500 bursaries to students in Louis Riel School Division and also holds events such as a fundraising tea in May and raffles at Christmas.
Down the years, the lions club has furnished a cottage at St.Amant and waiting rooms at St. Boniface General Hospital and helped establish the music program at Glenlawn Collegiate.
To learn more, visit www.riversidelions.mb.ca
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