Meet The Locals: Don McLachlan

February 22, 2024

Don McLachlan is the definition of a community stalwart.

He’s served with the Lions Club of Caloundra for 48 years and was the Caloundra Primary School Principal for two decades.

We chat to Don about the enormous role the Lions Club plays in the Sunshine Coast community and the generosity of local residents, who bought nearly two tonnes of Christmas cakes last year to support multiple good causes.

Hi Don. How is it that you’ve been with the Lions Club of Caloundra for 48 years and you’re not even its longest serving member?

Well, I joined in 1976 but there are two other members who have long service in the club. Gerry Bell was at the first meeting in 1957. He was a young surveyor then and he came out of that meeting as the inaugural secretary. He’s in his 90s now and still with the club! Because of work and business commitments, Gerry was away for a number of years. Brian Brebner has been a member of two clubs, Hughenden and Caloundra, and has 60 years of service.

For those who don’t know, tell us a bit about what the Lions Club does.

It’s part of Lions International, which was established in America by people who wanted to help those less fortunate than themselves. Then it spread to various countries, including Australia. We weren’t the first club in Queensland by any means. I think we were club number 80.

We have about 28 members in our club. We raise funds to donate to charities and provide manpower for various community activities. We have four raffles throughout the year, a charity golf day in November and a whole range of other activities. Last year we gave away $51,000.

That’s a great effort! What kind of organisations do you support?

We support some Lions research projects in areas like children’s cancer and prostate cancer. We also invite club members to suggest organisations, so a couple of new ones we’ve supported over the years is ovarian cancer research at the University of Queensland, birthing kits for new mothers in New Guinea, Cittamani Hospice which is concerned with palliative care, and DV Safe Phone, which collects and refurbishes old phones to give to victims of domestic violence.

We support Mercy Ships, which sends fully equipped hospital ships to developing nations to help people who are sick or disfigured. They help all sorts of people. There was one girl who was born with her feet facing the wrong way and they were able to fix that through surgery, so she could walk normally. They do a lot of international work but they have their local headquarters in Caloundra.

And there are other organisations that work locally like Rosies, which supports homeless and socially isolated people in the local area by providing them with a coffee or a meal in some instances and the chance to chat. We gave them $6,500 to upgrade their van, so they could put seating in the van and a kitchen annexe on the back.

We support a lot of organisations. I only wish I could mention them all!

I hear Caloundra locals are big fans of the Lions Christmas cakes.

Last year we bought 1.97 tonnes of Christmas cakes! It’s not a bad little effort. They range from $16 to $20, so they’re not cheap by any means. But the people who know these sorts of things say they’re very moist, which is apparently a very good characteristic. See, I’m a person who would eat any cake at all because I’m a chocoholic. It could even be dragged through a sock and I’d still eat it!

We’re very fortunate because over the years we’ve developed 23 different outlets who sell the cakes for us at no commission. Some of them tell us it’s their contribution to the Lions. Our two biggest sellers are Caloundra News and Pelican Waters Pharmacy. They’re always selling out and ringing us asking for more. Last year we had a few small cakes and puddings left over, which we donated to Meals on Wheels and the Salvation Army.

The Lions Club is also involved in a lot of community activities. Tell us about some of those.

Well, you’ll see us at the shopping centres throughout the year selling our $2 raffle tickets, which help us make all those donations. People are so supportive. We can sell out of 3,500 tickets in six or seven days. Most people buy five tickets for $10. That’s no bargain but more often than you can count, they say: “You people do such a good job.”

We have a catering trailer and we’ll do sausage and hamburger catering for local school fetes and sports days at no charge. The best one is the Little Athletics Association. You can imagine throughout the year, mum and dad work behind the counter doing the catering but on presentation day, it’s nice for them to see their children get their award, so we do the catering for them. And we do a Bunnings BBQ once a month to raise money.

Many, many years ago, there was a doctor in India who sent out a worldwide request for reading glasses. Along with many other clubs, we adopted this project. One of our club members has an arrangement with all the local optometrists and eye specialists, where she collects old glasses, forwards them to a clearing station at Caboolture and then they’re sent overseas. That project started before I joined, so it’s been going for maybe 50 years.

Can I ask what prompted you to get involved in Lions all those years ago?

Well, I think it’s the done thing for people who are comfortable to contribute to people who aren’t.

You’re never too young to volunteer. One thing we’ve been doing for three years now is going to our three state primary schools and asking the Grade 6 children to write an essay on volunteering. This last year we went to Golden Beach state school. The teachers judge the essays and the three winners get a $250 bursary towards their high school education, to help pay for uniforms, books, excursions and the like.

Speaking of state schools, a lot of local people would remember you from your days as Principal of Caloundra Primary School, wouldn’t they?

I’m long retired now but I was lucky enough to be Principal of Caloundra Primary for 20 years. We had great staff. I saw three cycles of children going through from Grade 1 to 7 and there are plenty of students who stay in contact. The thing that is the greatest buzz is when I see somebody in town and they acknowledge me. The girls will give you a big hug and the boys will shake your hand. Even the boys I dusted come up and shake your hand. And they’ll introduce me to their children who go to the primary school now. They’re just so respectful and it’s lovely.

Just to give you an example, my new neighbours are renovating their house. I’m hanging clothes on the line out the back and who fronts up but the tiler, who I taught 28 years ago. And he says: “G’day Don, how are you?” Not a lot of people have that.

It shows what a difference you’ve made to people’s lives – and still make. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we finish up?

Absolutely! We’re constantly looking for new members. We have a great gang of people but we’ll always welcome more.

If you’d like to know more about the Lions Club of Caloundra – or join in the fun – visit their website at e-clubhouse.org/sites/caloundra/contact.php or their Facebook page at facebook.com/CaloundraLions/.

Caloundra City Realty

Article by Caloundra City Realty

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