End of an era - Lioness' clubs are wound up after 44 years
The very first UK branch of the Lioness’ charity fundraising club was launched in Pontefract in June 1977.
And just over 44 years later it, along with all the other Lioness’ clubs in the country, has ceased to exist due to declining numbers. The remaining members have been invited to join the previously male-only Lions Club International which boasts 1.4million members in more than 200 countries.
Lions Club International was founded in 1917 in Chicago by businessman Melvyn Jones. Women could not join but wives and partners were allowed to have their own ‘ladies nights’. They had no autonomy and had no say in how the money they raised was distributed.
But in 1975 the Lioness movement was started in America and information soon began to filter through to the UK. Two years later Pontefract Lions president George Morgan was instrumental in setting up a Lioness club in Pontefract and by the early 1990s there were 72 other clubs.
His wife Jeanne was the first ever club president and, aged 85, she is still very much involved to this day.
She said: “I will always be proud to have been the first Lioness president in the country and have met a lot of wonderful people from all over the world that I wouldn’t have met if it hadn’t been for Lionesses.”
Jeanne, George, 88, and their two daughters Michelle and Jeanette and late son-in-law Keith have 200 years’ service in the Lions club between them. Each was presented with the Melvyn Jones award for services carried out both in the community and for Lions Clubs International. Michelle is currently president of the Castleford and Pontefract Lions.
In 2005 George, who had been appointed district governor,had to go to Hong Kong for the installation. While they were there, it was Jeanne and George’s golden wedding anniversary so they stayed on an extra week to celebrate.
Over the years, the club has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for local, national and international charities through its fundraising events and has worked with the local Lions on larger projects.