Peter Stapleton, Bruce May and Lions chairman Frank Brown in the new facility. Photo: Elesa Kurtz
After two decades welcoming children to a Tuggeranong Valley farm, the Lions can now have them stay. The community organisation will officially open its new 70-bed hostel on Tuesday, a two-level building that is set to provide a taste of rural life for students visiting the nation's capital.
Lions Youth Haven board chairman Frank Brown said bookings for the $650,000 Westwood Lodge at Kambah were proving popular.
"We have 12 or 13 bookings, the first one will happen in July," Mr Brown said.
Lions Youth Haven chairman Frank Brown with members Peter Stapleton and Bruce May at the new lodge. Photo: Elesa Kurtz
"I think we've got something like 1200 bed nights booked already, so it's pretty exciting for us."
Mr Brown said the local Lions' first foray into accommodation – targeting school, sporting and community groups – would provide financial support to existing and proposed youth programs.
"For example, early planning is taking place for a "paddock to plate" program where students learn how the meat and vegetables on the family dinner plate is produced," he said.
The catered lodge is priced at $74 a night for each child, including food and linen.
"We're hoping to achieve a turnover somewhere of $450,000-$500,000 [a year] and if we were doing that we would pull in 'profits' of $70,000-$100,000," he said.
"That might take a couple of years to achieve."
Over the past four years, the Lions have helped more than 500 students in trouble at school or home through practical, hands-on time on the 200-hectare property, a part of which they have leased since 1991.
"They get confidence and skills by working on the farm and learning about environmental science, sustainable agriculture and animal handling," Mr Brown said.
The working farm is now home to about 45 cattle, three ponies and an aquaponics system, the long-time Kambah Lions member said.
The project was conceived in 2008 and construction began in July. The ACT government provided $100,000 for the lodge; Lions Club international and national bodies gave a combined $90,000; and local Lions of the ACT and Queanbeyan region contributed about $75,000. The Snow Foundation and other private sources made significant donations.