COMMUNITY and friendship has always been at the heart of Bill Deleeuw’s life.
Since emigrating to Australia from the Netherlands six decades ago, Mr Deleeuw has been anything but idle.
He lived in Apollo Bay and Gippsland for some time, but for the past 50 years he has called the Wimmera home.
Mr Deleeuw first settled in Rupanyup, and it took no time at all before he extended his hand to help the community.
While living in Rupanyup he was part of the town’s progress association and was also a scout leader.
He was a trainer at the Rupanyup Football Club and received a life membership for his dedication to the club.
When the Rupanyup Agricultural Show came around each year, Mr Deleeuw would help out in any way he could.
However, Lions club work was the closest to Mr Deleeuw’s heart.
“A friend in Rupanyup had asked me to join. I was a part of the Rupanyup Lions Club for so many years, but when I moved to Horsham I transferred over to the Horsham City Lions Club,” he said.
Between the two Lions clubs, Mr Deleeuw has been elected president five times – twice in Rupanyup and three times for the Horsham City Lions Club.
He is currently Horsham City’s membership chairman.
It is a small club, but we have done a lot of work to keep it afloat and it was worth it.Bill Deleeuw
He said the club had experienced some tough times and almost folded, but he was determined not to let that happen.
“I was one of the main reasons why the club did not fold. We had to fight for it,” he said.
“So, we rallied to bring in more members and now we have grown from five members to nearly 15.
“It is a small club, but we have done a lot of work to keep it afloat and it was worth it.”
Mr Deleeuw said he was not one to sit around and the club had always kept him busy.
“I have been involved in many garage sales that helped raise funds for Rachael’s Wish,” he said.
“We operate the gates at Coughlin Park to raise money for Horsham Saints Football Netball Club and we park the cars at the Horsham racecourse.
“We do a lot of barbecues for various organisations to help them out, and we cook the barbecue for the Haven Market and the Horsham Pacing Cup.”
Mr Deleeuw said helping the Horsham community was his driving force.
“It’s important that we donate the money to mostly Horsham organisations,” he said
“We raise funds and distribute it to various organisations – scouts, fire brigades, SES, Rachael’s Wish, kindergartens and we make scholarships available at some high schools.
”We help people out with moving and we deliver meals for Meals on Wheels.”
It’s important that we donate the money to mostly Horsham organisationsBill Deleeuw
Alongside his fundraising efforts, Mr Deleeuw said he had a busy year last year refurbishing the Lions clubroom after it was flooded twice.
Mr Deleeuw said improving the safety of the elderly residents in Rupanyup was his favourite project in his 50 years with Lions.
“We made a concrete path in the middle of the main street from the nursing home to the shops,” he said.
“It was for residents who were pushed in wheelchairs and gophers because they didn’t have any cement footpaths to walk on and were being pushed on the road.
“My wife used to work at the nursing home and she saw someone almost get knocked over by a car.
“It was great to see the whole community get behind us with the project and we had different people coming in over a few weeks to help out.”
Mr Deleeuw said he had received many awards over the years, but his most recent award was the most memorable.
Horsham City Lions Club president Alan Henderson presented him with the Melvin Jones award in December for his tireless work with the club.
I was speechless – my wife reckons that doesn’t happen oftenBill Deleeuw
“I was speechless – my wife reckons that doesn’t happen often,” he said.
“I never expected to receive an award like that.
“I am always doing something for the Lions and I think the award also had something to do with the amount of time I have been involved.”
Mr Deleeuw said he attended every meeting and was surprised how the club managed to keep the honour a secret until it was announced.
“I found out they had been talking about it for quite a few months, so I’m surprised I didn’t find out sooner,” he said.
Mr Deleeuw said the friendships he had made during his five decades with Lions was his main reason to stay involved in the Horsham City Lions Club.
The friendships that I have made, and continue to make, has helped keep me motivatedBill Deleeuw
“We meet twice a month and we have a lot of fun together. The friendships that I have made, and continue to make, has helped keep me motivated,” he said.
Mr Deleeuw said the community was another driving force.
“It’s a way to help the community and it’s very satisfying to help people in need,” he said.
“They’re always so grateful, and seeing that makes it worth it.”