Lioness' pride before possible fall

THE first Lioness club established in Victoria could soon vanish as membership of the Ferntree Gully group rapidly declines.

Club president Pat Dryden told the Weekly that, after 35 years, the foundation club was left with just 10 members — soon to be nine when another departs at the end of the year.

"We won't be able to go on much longer," she said.

The group is part of the Lions Club of Wantirna, but it operates independently, raising and choosing where to donate its funds.

Regular sausage sizzles at Bunnings, charity fashion parades and Christmas hamper raffles all play a part in generating funds for the charities, both local and national, that it chooses to support.

One of its best known charities provides emergency toilet packs for patients at the Angliss Hospital in Upper Ferntree Gully.

"We put a comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, that sort of thing in the pack for patients who didn't realise they were going to be in hospital overnight," Mrs Dryden said.

They've also supported disaster relief funds, camps for underprivileged children and other local groups.

At its peak, the club had about 30 members, but Mrs Dryden blamed a Lions club rule change in 1991 for the beginning of the decline.

"In that year [Lions clubs] decided to accept women. But one of the benefits of our club is that we don't charge fees."

A neighbouring Lioness club in Vermont has just six members, but Mrs Dryden said she took comfort in the fact that country groups were not facing the same decline.

She said that when she first joined the club had members ranging in age from their 20s through to their 70s.

"Now, our youngest members are in their 60s, and we've got a couple in their 70s and 80s."

Mrs Dryden said sausage sizzles had become particularly difficult because some members could not remain on their feet all day.

She said that while new members would have to be willing to work, it was also a great way to socialise.

"There's a lot of fun to be had and we have plenty of laughs. And many of us have become friends out of the Lioness club as well."

Lunches apparently are quite a hit.

"Even though they're just ordinary like soups and sandwiches and dessert, everyone seems to love them."

The group meets at the Lions Den in Bayswater on the first and third Monday of each month from 10am.

Details: Pat, 9763 8872 or Doris, 9724 9614.

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