Ten years after Mattituck’s Leo Club quietly began providing assistance to community members in need, the high school branch of the Lions Club has suddenly exploded in size.
At its 10th anniversary dinner last Tuesday at the Bayview Inn in South Jamesport, the Leos inducted 40 new members, increasing its roster from 15 to 55.
Club president Jessica Stumpf, a senior at Mattituck High School, said the club’s new social media network helped attract many of the new members.
“This year, when I became president, the big thing I wanted to do was recruitment,” she said. “We had a Leos Club Facebook group, and the people we invited showed up to the first meeting, and they invited all their friends.”
What that means for Mattituck is more students to lend a hand with an annual December bake sale to raise money for local people in need, more volunteers to help with this year’s Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society and more strawberry-shuckers and all-around helpers for the Lions Club’s annual Strawberry Festival this June.
Leo Clubs have been around since 1957, when a Lions Club member in Pennsylvania who was also a baseball coach helped draft a charter for the organization’s first youth branch. The club name is an acronym for Leadership, Experience and Opportunity.
Ms. Stumpf joined the Leos as a ninth-grader after hearing about the club from her cousin, Steve Sweeney, who was its first president.
Mattituck resident and Lions Club member Art Tillman helped to organize the club while working as a substitute teacher at Mattituck High School. He still serves as the club’s adviser.
Mr. Tillman remembers the group’s first project: purchasing pine saplings from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and raising them at Harbes Family Farm until they grew big enough to sell as a fundraiser. Late last year, the group raised $2,000 for a woman diagnosed with breast cancer whose insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of chemotherapy. Mr. Tillman said the woman is now in remission.
“Over the years, we’ve raised $20,000 and given it away to local needy families and international charities,” said Mr. Tillman. “The L in Leo means leadership, so I let them call the meetings and come up with ideas. I ask kids at meetings, ‘Do you know anyone in need?’
“Our kids are really able to put together terrific résumés for college. They’re looking for students who’ve done community activities and, boy, do we provide them,” he said.
Ms. Stumpf agrees. “The best thing is helping everyone out,” she said. “Right now we’re organizing a car wash for the Relay for Life. We plan to have a team [in the relay] this year to show everyone in the community what we’re doing and what the Leo Club is. We’re doing amazing things.”