The newly-formed Southold Lions Club held its charter celebration in Riverhead Saturday.
Founding members were sworn in along with officers Judith Perez, Karyn Cooper, William Kerensky, Jose Perez, Breana Cochran, Neil Rochford and Ginny Morlock at the dinner celebration, held at the Birchwood of Polish Town.
Ms. Perez, of Southold, will serve as the club’s first president. She initiated the process last fall and the club currently has about 26 members, she said. Twenty people are required to start the charter process. Lions Club International has 1.4 million members in 46,000 chapters around the globe, according to its website.
Ms. Perez was inspired to give back to the community after working as an ER nurse for many years.
“I became so aware of community problems, and what really goes on,” she said. “It’s my nature to nurture.”
During the ceremony, Lions Club Past International Director Dr. Jack Weber shared a guiding message on how clubs can help serve their communities.
“He said ‘Don’t go to Austin Street,’ ” Ms. Perez explained, alluding to the 1964 public murder of a young woman in Queens that pushed the ‘bystander effect’ into colloquial use. “He compared that to what’s going on in society today, how nobody wants to take the first step.”
Though the club just celebrated the charter, Ms. Perez said they officially received it Feb. 27 and have been active ever since.
Currently, they are collecting items for those affected by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina. The group also helped dig trenches for a community garden in Southold to benefit CAST, stocked the little free pantry in Greenport and knit baby hats for the “Little Hats, Big Hearts,” program to spread awareness about congenital heart defects that affect about 40,000 babies born in the U.S. annually, according to the CDC.
Ms. Perez said they are working to get some additional events and fundraisers off the ground.
“I want to change the face of the Lions. The average age is 68, but we have a lot of members in their 30s and 40s—younger people who want to give back to the community,” she said.
Karyn Cooper, who serves as the group’s secretary, said she jumped on board immediately when she learned about the Southold Lions. “I have always wanted to volunteer, but I never knew where to start,” she said.
Traditionally, Lions Clubs hold monthly dinner meetings, but Ms. Perez is cognizant that the outings may not be affordable for young couples. They began holding meetings in the Southold High School cafeteria, each chipping in $5 to order pizza, and will soon begin meeting regularly at Taps and Corks in Southold.
“It’s exciting,” Ms. Perez said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s a club that we have to build.”
She said that they are currently hoping to continue growing their membership. For more information, contact the Southold Lions at [email protected].
Photo caption: James Conklin presented president Judith Perez with the Southold Lions Club banner. (Courtesy photo)