Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text WILTS GAZETTE to 80360 or email us
Roaring success as Chippenham Lions hit 40th year
The Lions Club of Chippenham has much to celebrate next week as not only has it been going for 40 years but in that time it has raised about half a million pounds for charity.
Perhaps best known for its Christmas carol float, it now takes twice as long for Santa to visit the town’s houses in the run-up to the big day as so many houses have been built in the three-and-a-half decades since the float began its rounds.
President Ian Gilbert, 67, said: “People whose children came out to see Santa in 1978 could well be parents themselves now.
“It used to go out in the two weeks leading up to Christmas, but Cepen Park and Pewsham weren’t there then. It takes nearly four weeks to get around Chippenham now, and we’re in Corsham for three nights as well.”
The club has even outlived the pub where it was founded on October 23, 1973.
“We started out in a pub in town that no longer exists. I can’t remember its name,” said Mr Gilbert, who joined five years ago and lives in Lyneham.
Among its first 20 members were Chris Comley, and its longest serving active member is Byron Hughes.
After their first president Bob Cook passed away, a trust fund was started in his name to hold an Olympic Games-style event for people with disabilities in Swindon each August.
Now Chippenham Lions has 33 men and women who meet monthly and fundraise for local, national and international causes among 1.4 million Lions worldwide.
The float provides half of the club’s income, which recently has been about £20,000 a year.
Other fundraisers include their cherished Vehicle and Farm Fun Day, which was started two years ago.
Mr Gilbert said: “We added new functions this year. We raised nearly £1,000 by serving tea and coffee at Chippenham Half Marathon, and we held a fashion show at the golf club.
“Our welfare committee decided on the charities. It looks at suggestions from members and requests for donations.
“We also have a social committee and like to do something each month. We are mainly older people because we have more time and we have the staying power,” he joked. “But we would welcome some younger members.”
Email Mr Gilbert at firstname.lastname@example.org