Another big fundraising event for the Beaches Lions Club is the Easter Parade, a hugely popular annual event in the Beach that also features several bands at the Alex Christie Bandshell at Kew Gardens. Through Loonies for the Lions the public has the opportunity to contribute to the important causes that the club supports. During the Canada Day Festival several ten thousand people attend. Several bands are playing, and the event features rides for children, and all around entertainment opportunities for the whole family.
Joe also mentioned that there used to be a Beachfest that the Lions Club would hold. The promoter of this event was a Lions Member by the name of Lido Chilelli who also founded the Beaches Jazz Festival. In addition the Lions Club used to hold a ceremony called “Citizenship Court” to welcome New Canadians during Canada Day festivities in the park.
Another big annual event organized by the Beaches Lions Club is “Christmas in the Park”, which is hosted by Beach celebrity Glenn Cochrane. This event also is the occasion of the Christmas Tree Lighting, the official kickoff of the holiday season. Christmas trees are for sale, run by a Lion member for the last 12 years.
Joe himself has long-standing connections to the Beach. He was born in Sicily and came to Canada in 1955. After getting married he bought Vienna Upholstery in 1964, and he and his wife had five children. He has been working in the Beach since 1955 and has been a resident since 1964. Over the years Joe has seen many changes in the Beach: he said “in the 1950s you could shoot a cannon across the street, and there would be nobody to react.”
At that time there were a lot of used furniture stores. Joe credits the revival of the Beach mainly to two people: Lido Chilelli, the founder of the Toronto International Beaches Jazz Festival, and Zoltzz (local merchant Harold Wiseman) who opened his popular fashion discount store “Ends”. Joe added that people from all over the world come here to enjoy the area, and from a point a view of living here he said it is the best place in the city.
I inquired about the procedure for joining the Beaches Lions Club and Joe said that it is necessary for an existing member to refer a new member to the club. Presently the Beaches Lions Club has 56 active members. Many of the members are retired professionals and business people, and the club is able to draw on their decades of experience. A number of younger members have also joined the club, and Joe said that the best age for someone to join is “when they have made it professionally and they have the time to contribute and give back”.
Joe adds that the members also have a lot of fun together. The Club has monthly dinner meetings where members get together, socialize, have fun and talk about club business. He explained that if a member starts to talk about their business, a so-called “tail-twister” will fine them. The fining of course is just for fun, but it illustrates that the dedicated purpose of the club is service, not self-promotion. Joe added that business relationships happen automatically as members get to know one another.
The Beaches Lions Club is a collection of individuals who come together to make a difference, and its special events are treasured fixtures in the community calendar. The Lions Club motto is “Many people can do what one person is unable to do alone”, and the Beaches Lions Club is a perfect example of this spirit.