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PAB Lions Club refocuses relief efforts

Upstairs donation room with new items for displaced families in the Port aux Basques Lions Club. – Courtesy of Val Clarke

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES — The Lions Club has been a safe haven for displaced families to stop by, get some clothes, supplies, food, whatever people might need to help them after losing so much. It has been over six weeks since post-tropical depression Fiona hit the region, and the Lions Club is still going strong, but Val Clarke said things are starting to shift now.

“We’re actually on the downscale now. We’re trying to transition now so the Lions Club is not the distribution centre,” said Clarke. “What we’ve done, in consultation with the Town, all the food has gone to the Salvation Army. All the personal hygiene items have gone to the Women’s Centre, and all of the clothing is at the Lions Club. What we’re going to do is actually have our last bag sale on Friday (Nov. 4) because that part of it, most people have what they need now for clothes, and now it’s going to be the higher ticket items. The furniture and that part, the Salvation Army will deal with that in consultation with the Town.”

Clarke said it is important now to get the Lions Club back to its ready status for future emergencies.

“As long as the need was there, the Lions were there to help in every which way. So what we’re trying to do now is transition it so our Lions Club is available for whatever is needed in the town. If we were to have another state of emergency, say something were to go wrong, we’d be up the creek. So that’s where we are at right now, trying to get our Lions Club back as a warming centre should something happen,” explained Clarke. “This came unexpectedly. We can’t be in a catch-22 position where something does happen, and all of this is still at the Lions Club, so what are we going to do?”

Clarke said this change doesn’t mean the Lions are walking away from the Fiona relief efforts.

“We’re just transitioning so that if the need arises and something else comes up, we can help in another way.”

Clarke credits the volunteers for their selfless work that ensured the Lions Club has been able to do so much after Fiona hit.

“There’s only six of us in the Lions Club that have been available because of work and other commitments like that, and we’re having anywhere from 25 to 30 volunteers every night, and that’s not counting all the volunteers we have here during the day,” said Clarke. “Without the volunteers, none of this would’ve been possible and I can’t stress that enough. We cannot thank the volunteers enough for stepping up to the plate.”

Clarke said the donations have been coming in steadily as well.

“Lions Clubs from across Canada have really and truly stepped up to the plate as well. Our motto is that we serve, and I am honestly proud to say I am a Lion when I see Lions across Canada stepping up to help the Southwest Coast.”

Clarke refuted recent rumours that volunteers are cherry picking through donated items.

“Once it’s all sorted, then what we do is we go into the trailer and grab bags that have been sent from all over the place. We will take in so many bags at a time and open them up. When we open them up everyone is told that everything that is new with tags on it will be passed in – we use trust at the end of the day – this is all for the displaced families,” explained Clarke. “It’s sad when people go on with stuff like that. This has been six weeks of us putting our heart and soul into all of this.”

Clarke said that if volunteers are there for the bagging at night, when they are setting up items for a bag sale, if they see something they like, absolutely they can do up a bag since it is all going into the bag sale, but all new items are put aside specifically for the displaced families.

Clarke said there is a room where all the new items are stored, upstairs above the gym, so families can take what they need from all the new items.

“We wanted to have a place to put it so when we see the displaced families coming in and looking for stuff, they can go up there and it’s all brand new. Now, they are of course welcome to all the other stuff too. Don’t get me wrong, but I just felt the new stuff would be nice for those who’ve lost everything, and when all this was originally sent, it was sent with the intent that it was for all of the displaced families.”

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