Mount Forest Lions Club celebrates 85 years of making community a better place to live

MOUNT FOREST – An untouched dusting of snow blankets the woodchip padding of the Lion Bill Moody playground as Vern Job gestures at the splash pad beyond.

His voice is the only sound filling the chilly air, but come summertime, the joyful voices of hundreds of children playing, and the splashing of cool water will be heard each week here.

The playground, built in 2013 and named after 53-year member Bill Moody, and the splashpad, built in 2020 and named after decades-long members Dennis MacDonald and Wilson Schwindt, are the “pride and joys” of the Mount Forest Lions Club, Job says.

To make the projects happen, built in collaboration with Wellington North township, the community donated $120,000 through the club — $50,000 for the park and $70,000 for the splashpad.

“We’ve been blessed in Mount Forest, that we’ve had so much generous help from the community people, young and old,” said Job, who has been a local Lion member since arriving in the community from Ingersoll in 1986.

He’s a past club president and now its historian, following in the steps of the likes of original Mount Forest charter member and lawyer Roy Grant, and Job’s predecessor, Ron Hunter.

The service club takes on and champions causes and projects that Job says may otherwise not happen.

“The people step up and support us and make donations so we can do these things,” he said.

The MacDonald and Schwindt families are seen at the unveiling of a sign to mark the MacDonald-Schwindt Splashpad at the Bill Moody Lions Playground in August 2022. The splashpad was named after decades-long Lions Club members Dennis MacDonald (seen to the left of the sign) and Wilson Schwind (seem to the right). Advertiser file photo


Driving westward along London Road, past an ongoing residential development on more than five acres of land, Job speaks of the growth coming to Mount Forest, and how the community would look if it weren’t for the service club.

“We’re doing our part to make Mount Forest a better place in which to live,” he said.

He steers past Wellington Heights Secondary School, which Lions member and resident Rick Sinnamon advocated to bring to Mount Forest.

“At that time, he didn’t have any idea, the amount of population growth we would experience, as well as we’re going to experience. There’s housing everywhere,” Job remarked.

A community needs two things for growth, says Job: educational opportunities and health care.

“Without a good school … or without a hospital, the town doesn’t grow,” he said, adding the local health care system is the largest recipient of the club’s yearly community donations.

Amy Van Hu​ss of the Mount Forest Louise Marshall Hospital Foundation said the Lions have donated over $238,000 to the foundation in support of its campaigns, including the CKNX Health Care Heroes Radiothon, gala, and the hospital’s redevelopment and expansion of its emergency department and ambulatory care areas.

“They’ve also supported our general equipment fund, with donations directed to support the hospital’s highest priority equipment needs,” Van Huss said.

“We couldn’t be more grateful for their contributions.”

Vern Job, president of the Mount Forest Lions Club, presents Amy Van Huss of the Louise Marshall Hospital Foundation with a donation of $7,500 towards the hospital’s equipment fund. This donation was funded in part by the club’s March 17, 2022 food gift card raffle. Other recipients of raffle proceeds were Camp Huronda for diabetes, Participation Lodge, Cancer Patient Services and St. John Ambulance. Submitted photo


The Claire Stewart Medical Centre across the road, built in 2001 and named after the wife of longtime member and prominent business owner Lloyd Stewart, was also made possible, in part, by the Lions.

“We assisted in building it and donated a lot of funds,” Job said.

Beyond the club’s support for education and health care, the Lions are behind several locations for recreation and fun in the community — be they playgrounds (there are four supported by the Lions), a community centre, or a swimming pool.

The now-defunct outdoor swimming pool bearing Lion Roy Grant’s name, was built at its Parkside Drive location in 1948 — a decade after the club was first established.

The Mount Forest Lions Club funded an outdoor pool, named after original charter member Roy Grant, and built in 1948. (Image courtesy of Mount Forest Museum and Archives)


Discussion of a new outdoor pool to replace the Lion Roy Grant has been ongoing at various levels in the township since at least 2016, and Job is adamant the club will be involved in getting a new pool built in the community.

“To what extent remains to be determined,” said Job, who is also a member of the township’s aquatics advisory committee.

“The Lions have been involved since 1948, when we built the original pool for $3,800,” he added.

A new outdoor pool is proposed adjacent to the Mount Forest and District Sports Complex, which the club also had an active hand in, pledging $50,000 to the construction of the new complex. The club has also made other donations over the years to enhance the centre.

The Lions are also responsible for a digital sign installed five years ago at the corner of Queen Street West and Cork Street, at a cost of $50,000. The sign means MacDonald no longer needs to place a sandwich board at the intersection alerting passersby of the Lions’ weekly bingo games held at the complex.

The Wednesday night games, which started in 1979, are the club’s longest-running fundraiser.

They attract between 80 to 250 people each week — depending on events and jackpot size — who spend money on bingo cards and games, contributing much to the club’s coffers.

“Each year, over the last several years, we’ve donated well over $100,000 each year back into the community,” Job said.

Mount Forest Lions Club bingo held at the Mount Forest and District Sports Complex during the 2022 Mount Forest Fireworks Festival. (Mount Forest Lions Club photo)


He also proudly notes the club maintained historic donation levels throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as members conjured out-of-the-box ideas for fundraising events, such as a grocery card raffle, drive-through barbecues, and a contactless version of the club’s most valuable fundraiser — a “road toll” where members collect donations from drivers during the Victoria and Labour Day long weekends.

Money raised from other efforts such as a book of coupons for local businesses, has been donated to the fire hall for the purchase of life-saving equipment and vehicles.

The club has also funnelled money to local organizations and groups over the years, such as sports clubs, air cadets, and Big Brothers Big Sisters – and Lions donations have benefited a large list of other recipients, including, to name only some, school nutrition programs, scholarships and families in need.

“There’s almost nobody in this community that hasn’t been touched by something to do with the Lions, or a service club in general,” Job said.

As the community grows, new residents will join those already benefitting from the efforts of community-minded Lions members, Job said.

“There will be lots of needs and there will be lots of people who want to serve those needs.”

The club, he added, will “survive well beyond my time, and well into the future.

“The Lions will be there to assist and serve as the need arises.”

With community support, the Wellington Advertiser published an eight-page special section in the April 27 print edition of its sister publication, the North Wellington Community News, commemorating the club’s 85th anniversary. You can view and interact with the publication below.