IT began as an innovative way to raise money.
The Churchill Lions Club was looking beyond the sausage sizzle to continue assisting community projects and people in need.
Initiatives like Camp Quality – a charity supporting children with cancer – and local sports clubs, schools and public spaces would benefit.
But its monthly market, established as a means to generate a steady income and in turn regular donations, is struggling to attract numbers.
And secretary Bill Hurenkamp, along with assistant secretary Bob Lowick, is not sure it can continue.
“At one market we get a lot of stall holders and we get only small numbers of people… the stallholders look at it and say, ‘hmm we haven’t got enough people here and we’re not coming’,” Mr Hurenkamp said.
“The following week the people come and say, ‘there’s not many stallholders here’, and it’s sort of a catch 22.
“It’s a real struggle sometimes and it’s a lot of hard work, as well. We need people to come.”
The club says it has donated more than $35,000 already this year to local community projects and responses to overseas disasters, as well as major Lions’ initiatives advancing cancer research.
It has helped a junior football squad buy new jumpers; sponsored the town’s junior soccer club and recently installed two new barbecues at Churchill’s Mathison Park.
It is also helping local schools build on student confidence through a public speaking program, and looks to promote the town through public events, such as those seen on Australia Day.
A highlight, though, is more than half a million dollars worth of donations in its 20-odd years of supporting Camp Quality.
“It’s incredible what they’ve done for us over the years,” Camp Quality’s Victorian fundraising specialist, Jo McKeown, said.
“They make sure that up to 70 or 80 kids each year get to go away on our camps that are building resilience and optimism for them to use on their cancer journey.
“These men are absolutely incredible and vital to us.”
Camp Quality offers a range of services to young cancer patients and their families, from diagnosis through to remission or in some cases, bereavement.
Ms McKeown said the Churchill team provided a vital link into the Latrobe Valley and broader Gippsland.
She estimated hundreds of families from across the region had received support due to the Lions’ involvement.
“Our thanks and our gratitude to these Churchill guys,” she said.
“They are just so supportive and so generous, and they really are making a difference, not just for our organisation, but literally to those families we support.”
Mr Lowick said although sausage sizzles and the like did work to continue assisting those in need “to a certain degree”, “you’re limiting yourself as to what you can do”.
He said it was nice to say, “we can help you out with that one and throw it in the pot”, when schools rang about assisting a student to afford a week-long camp.
While there are community markets on each weekend across the Latrobe Valley, the pair wants to offer something different at the Churchill event.
They believe that if Churchill residents alone were to turn up each month, it could be successful.
“We’re committed to our community and we’re committed to giving back 100 per cent of everything that we raise to the community,” Mr Hurenkamp said.
“That’s the message, in some way. If we can’t raise funds, there’s no way we can do that.”
The Churchill Community Market is held on the third Saturday of each month from 8.30am until 1.30pm in the hotel car park.
If you have any suggestions on how to improve the market, write to Churchill Lions Club, PO Box 110, Churchill 3842.
If you’d like to book a stall, contact Bob Lowick on 0408 377 781 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Bill Hurenkamp on 0418 327 287 or email@example.com