By Colin MacGillivray
WHITTLESEA man John Leaford was honoured for a remarkable five decades of dedication to the local community with the presentation of a special Lions International service medal this month.
Mr Leaford has been a member of Whittlesea Lions Club for 50 years and, alongside his wife Leila, has been tirelessly involved in a range of voluntary roles in the township.
He is a life member of Lions and has been involved with Whittlesea Masonic Lodge, Whittlesea Agricultural Society and Whittlesea and Northern District Art Show.
As a carpenter he has created Santa decorations for the township at Christmas time and was involved in the town’s recovery from the Black Saturday bushfires.
Mr Leaford was presented with his 50 years of service medallion in a ceremony attended by a Lions International director Tony Benbow, Federal Member for McEwen and Lions member Rob Mitchell and Whittlesea Lions Club president Dave Cordell, along with family and other Lions members.
Mr Leaford said it was an honour to have served his community for as long as he had.
“Once I joined, I just kept going and that’s all there is to it,” he said.
“I enjoy the friends you make through Lions. I’ve travelled the world through Lions; it’s the largest service organisation in the world, with 1.4 million members.”
Mr Leaford said his philosophy was simple: get involved in as much as possible.
“Getting involved in projects gets you all fired up,” he said.
“When we came to Whittlesea in 1970, we knew one person, and then we got involved in the school and our kids joined Cubs and Scouts and Guides and Brownies.
“I got myself involved with the Whittlesea Show, and you just put your hand up all the time. It’s a bit hard sometimes because people expect you to do this or that, but you get involved.”
Mr Mitchell paid tribute to Mr Leaford with a speech in Federal Parliament earlier this month.
“John is someone who epitomises the Lions code of ethics and the purpose of statement that we Lions stand by,” Mr Mitchell said.
“John is a well-respected local builder renowned for building family homes and for developing lifelong friendships with his customers. John is generous in providing his time to those in need directly through his involvement in many community groups he’s been part of.
“He’s also a key contributor to the committee that was successful in building the Whittlesea technical school, now known as Whittlesea College. He also received a City of Whittlesea senior citizens award in 2013, and a runner-up at the HIA awards in 1995.
“He and his lovely wife Leila have been instrumental in leading community engagement and fundraising for many community events, emergency response and recovery activities, and the building of community infrastructure for our community of Whittlesea, particularly after the Black Saturday fires.”
Mr Cordell described Mr Leaford as ‘a champion guy’ who deserved all the accolades he received.
“He holds three different major awards with Lions: he’s a life member; a Melvin Jones Award recipient, named after the gentleman who started Lions in America and one of the highest awards you can get in Lions; and he’s got a James B Richardson award, which we presented him with the other day. That’s one of the biggest awards you can win in Australia,” Mr Cordell said.
“It’s quite big for him to have won all of those awards. It’s well deserved for all the work that he’s done over the years.
“He’s got his finger in every pie. He’s a very community-minded person, and it’d be great if we had a lot more people who jumped in and supported their town like John.”