ounded in 1980, the Jericho-Brookville Lions Club has experienced a recent resurgence thanks to an influx of membership after it had fallen from numbering 50 during its heyday. Having started out as a group of local business owners meeting for lunch and drink at Jericho’s late Maine Maid Inn, this chapter had been in continual existence. Despite having a membership that was aging and atrophying, the club still managed to annually raise $15,000 for local charities. Last summer, new president Paula Umreiko decided to kick-start things with help from member Anthony Colleluori, the current membership chair and next year’s first vice president-elect.
“While our club was still raising money every year, times changed like they do for so many service organizations as many of our members began to move away or pass on, including our dear Past President Peter Moffett,” Colleluori explained. “Last summer Paula tasked me with increasing the membership and adding new members. So far we’ve added 15 members and the average age is 50 from about 71 as of last July. The average new member is 43.”
The largest international service organization, the Lions Club was founded in 1917 by Chicago businessman Melvin Jones as a means of addressing the betterment of local communities and the world at large. Famous members over the years have been polar explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd and President Jimmy Carter. One of the organization’s main missions is to focus on the needs of the visually impaired. It’s an objective that dates back to a speech Helen Keller made at the 1925 International Convention at Cedar Point, OH, where she challenged the Lions to become Knights of the Blind in a crusade against this affliction. Last year, the organization celebrated its centennial. Numbering 1.4 million Lions globally, the Association of International Lion Club recommitted to its pledge to help those in need at its 100th convention in Chicago last year. Currently serving 1.6 million people world-wide, the Lions aim to up their numbers to 2 million and to be serving 200 million people by 2021.
Locally, the Jericho-Brookville Lions are going forward with renewed energy. More than $30,000 has been raised for charity and local members have participated in a number of district-wide projects including donating, gathering and loading upwards of 52 tons of aid that was sent to Texas and Puerto Rico relief efforts last summer. Closer to home, the Jericho-Brookville Lions have provided a washer and dryer to Momma’s House, a residence for single moms and their children who are in dangerous domestic situations. The Lions have also gotten involved with a number of other charities including CraftABILITY, HorseAbility and Guide Dogs for the Blind. This year’s Jericho-Brookville Lions Club has been active in so many projects that it is in the running for the first time in the club’s 38 years for the “Best Club in the District Award.” It is also entered for the “Club Excellence Reward,” which rewards a club for the greatest net growth in membership in addition to participating in at least three service projects and promoting the club’s events and activities to the community.
While the Jericho-Brookville Lions has always been adept at raising money, it has shifted gears to becoming more hands-on with its outreach efforts. It’s a direction Colleluori is excited about and one he thinks will be a key to attracting younger members, particularly millennials.
“Locally, our members are developing an aggressive multi-year plan to combat poverty and hunger for the families housed in the Jericho School District by Nassau County Social Services. The plan, still being worked out, will include a food pantry-type service, summer transportation so kids can get to a summer camp, an education component year round and job mentoring and placement program to help the older kids and parents climb out of poverty,” he said. “Our goal is to place each piece of the program in incrementally and to see it succeed for a long time to come.”
Growing the club base is key to all boats rising on the same tide. For Colleluori, more hands getting involved means more people benefit from these kinds of charitable efforts.
“We want the community to know we hope to have a Jericho schools Leo’s Service Club up and rolling by fall so our students can find an easy way to give back and perform community service. And we hope more Jericho parents and residents will join our club this year,” he said. “It is our goal to bring the club membership to more than 100 over the next three years. We will go into our next fiscal year at 30 or so [effectively] doubling our numbers. The younger generation has a great opportunity to work with the remaining boomers and greatest generation to actually change the conditions of their fellow citizens through getting involved with the Lions.”
Visit bit.ly/2IMyBAK or visit the Jericho/Brookville Lions Club Group Facebook page to find out more about the Jericho-Brookville Lions Club.