The first Lions club in South Africa was formed in Cape Town in 1957, with the first club in the (then) Transvaal province (now Gauteng) being formed in January 1958.  The Wilds Club was chartered on 12 April 1962 with an initial 22 members and Sid Abrams, a pharmacist, as its first president. The other members were attorneys, accountants, engineers and industrialists and included Dr Les Cooper who has had unbroken membership since then. The name of the club was derived from The Wilds, an area in the suburb of Houghton planted with South African indigenous flora, and the club meetings were originally held not far from there.

Besides Dr Cooper, we have some other long-standing members and our current members have collectively contributed a total of 330 years of service to the community.

Membership reached a peak of 54 in June 1963 and included the late Dr Walter Cohen who, although blind, held the offices of club secretary and president in later years. It was Walter who, in August 1966, originated the Blind Navigators Car Rally, a project which has been taken up by other clubs in the country and also beyond our borders and later won for the club the coveted Project of the Year award. The rallies were sponsored by BP and a floating trophy awarded to the winning navigator.

Down the years the club has originated and participated in a wide range of service projects clearly too numerous to mention, but some of the more enduring of these are:

  • An annual outing to the Vaal river, undertaken in conjunction with the Vereeniging Lions Club. The first of these took place in 1968 and involved 150 blind folk and their families. In later years boys and girls from children’s homes have been the beneficiaries of these outings.
  • The regular collection of groceries at local supermarkets for a variety of beneficiaries, including a number of pensioners to whom monthly food parcels are distributed. The first of these collections was held at a supermarket in the suburb of Craighall in March 1978. Prior to this the club had purchased groceries and distributed food parcels to needy individuals.
  • The annual sale of Christmas cakes – a national project of Lions in South Africa.
  • The regular sponsoring of the training of guide dogs through the South African Guide-Dog Association.

Among the variety of other projects have been: the signing up of subscribers for Medic Alert bracelets – over a period some 700 subscribers were signed up; the collection of used spectacles for recycling (Operation Brightsight, another national project of Lions in South Africa) and the operation of a “train” at the Johannesburg Zoo – a joint project with the then Emmarentia Lions Club.

The club was instrumental in the chartering of the Pietersburg Lions Club in October 1962.

As has unfortunately been the experience of many clubs, membership numbers dwindled and, as from 1 July 2014, the club merged with the Glenoaks Club, which had been chartered in 1991. It was decided to retain the name of The Wilds Club as it had the earliest charter date.

[20 February 2018]

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