After initiating the Penrith Lions Club Christmas trailer raffle in 1980 as Club President, Allen Jeffery is devastated that for the first time in 32 years the raffle will not be going ahead this Christmas.
The Christmas trailer raffle, which has been held inside Centro Nepean for the past 26 years can no longer be hosted by the shopping centre due to a change in the centre layout.
“I was really depressed when I got the news at the end of July that they had changed their policies – we had been told in January that we would be allowed to bring the trailer into the shopping centre as we have done for 26 years,” he said.
“I’ve been a Lions Club member for 37 years but this has really taken the wind out of my sails.” The raffle has raised money for a number of local charities but for the past 20 years the Lions Club has been donating all proceeds to the Neonatal Unit at Nepean Hospital.
“Over the years funds from the raffle have enabled the purchase of much needed equipment costing in excess of $250,000,” Mr Jeffery said.
“This year alone we have already donated $17,000 but we were hoping to raise $20,000 through the raffle to coincide with the 20th anniversary of our partnership with the Neonatal Unit.”
The raffle has always been the biggest fundraising event on the calendar for the local Lions Club.
“We have the chocolate wheel in the Plaza where we raise funds for the neonatal unit too, but the raffle has always been the biggest event of the year – each year it takes something like 800 man hours to put together and last year we sold 36,000 tickets in just seven weeks – some of our members were so dismayed [that it wouldn’t go ahead this year] they felt like walking away,” Mr Jeffery said.
Tracie Thomson, Acting Nurse Unit Manager for the Neonatal Unit said that the staff at the hospital are very grateful for the contributions from the Lions Club over the years.
“The Lions Club of Penrith has helped to make a big difference in the lives of the Hospital’s tiniest patients,” she said.
“Funds raised have contributed towards humidifiers, an advanced flow nasal CPAP machine and a transcutaneous oxygen and carbon dioxide and carbon dioxide monitoring system.”
A spokesperson for Centro said that it has never stopped their charities from selling raffle tickets and that free space is provided to registered charities for their activities.
“We have tried to be very accommodating of the Lions Club but cannot have the trailer in the centre because a permanent kiosk has been installed in that space,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said that the Lions Club could still sell their raffle tickets but display their prizes by another means, such as a poster.
Mr Jeffery said that the whole reason why the raffle has in the past been so successful is that passersby are drawn to the big, visual display of prizes and that without the display there would be little chance of the Club raising the much needed funds.
When the Weekender went to take photos of the Lions Club members outside the Centro shopping centre on Wednesday, we and the members were asked to move off Centro’s property.
But with any luck the Lions Club hope to have the raffle back for next Christmas.
“You never know what might happen and we would love to do it again next year,” Mr Jeffery said.