<b>Lions ‘Recycle’ a Vital Storefront</b> The closing of the Allied Carpet Showroom last November was another blow to Worthing, a historic seaside city in southeast England. It represented the largest empty shop in the center of the city of 100,000. But Worthing Lions brought back some holiday spirit to their city by “recycling” the space, inviting 36 charities and community groups to share the 12,500-square-foot showroom. For six weeks leading up to Christmas, the Autistic Society, Acorn Pregnancy, Career Support and other groups promoted their services and sold vintage or “upcycled” goods to support their activities. Artists and craftsman showed their wares and hosted workshops. The Lions not only staffed a booth but offered free cake and coffee. Some 12,000 visitors streamed through the showroom. What could have been a blot on the commercial landscape instead became a hub of activity and sign of a community’s vitality, resilience and resources despite tough economic times. “A lot of the groups involved were small, grassroots organizations who wouldn’t usually have that kind of exposure, so it was very important for Worthing’s community sector. Many exceeded their fundraising targets and recruited new volunteers,” said Dan Thompson, the founder of the Empty Shops Network. The network encourages communities to preserve the vitality of town centers by “recycling” empty shops with art galleries, studios and small businesses. Thompson’s group estimates that 72,000 shops will have closed in 2009 in England. The nation of shopkeepers is losing its identity because of the dismal economy, the preference for online shopping and the rise of large national chain stores. The empty shop initiative was one of the largest of its kind in the country. The 35-member Lions club worked on the initiative with the Worthing Borough Council, which owned the property. The Lions advertised the enterprise as an “Upmarket” because it was a step above a typical resale event. After Christmas, Thompson used the showroom for children’s activities, and in February the Lions held two estate sales. The space has not been used since because of the burden of utilities and other overhead costs. But the experience was a positive one. “We feel that the recycling of these empty premises was a great success– not so much for the money raised but for the fantastic pr and raising the profile of Lionism with the general public,” said John Sayles, club president. Tennis, anyone? That was the question posed to the 70 members of the Kofu Lions Club in Japan. The club president had proposed sponsoring a tennis tournament to mark the club’s 50th anniversary. After much discussion, the club voted on the proposal, the first time in its history to vote on a project. A majority voted yes, and the Kofu International Ladies Open was held at Yamanashi Gakuin University. The tournament was an International Tennis Federation event, or one of the Circuit tournaments in which players earn points to compete in one of the four Grand Slams. Thirty-two singles players and 16 doubles teams competed in the Lions’ tournament. “On our 50th anniversary we wanted to do something more substantial than a mere ceremony,” said Lion Shinya Tomioka, the tournament coordinator and general manager of the Yamanashi Gakiun women’s tennis team. Some Lions were concerned that the prize money made their venture too commercial. Those objections led to the vote. But the majority of members agreed with Yoshitaro Ariizzumi, club president, that “we needed an innovative change for the future of Lions.” The future of young people also was tied up in the tournament. The club used the tournament to support promising young tennis players.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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