Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Pawtucket 3-05-14

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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2 Pawtucket MARCH 5-11 , 2014 | vAlley bReeze | PAWTUCKeT ediTion By ETHAN SHOREY valley breeze Staff Writer PAWTUCKET – It was January of 1924 when a group of city businessmen joined the growing trend of business- people across the country who were interested in doing good for their communities. The men were attracted to the motto "We Serve" and the slogan "Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nation's Safety," the watchwords of the Lions Clubs International. It didn't take long after that initial chartering for the Pawtucket Lions Club to estab- lish itself as a leader in the dis- trict, say members. During the next few years it would play a key role in alleviating suffer- ing for local families dealing with the impacts of the Great Depression. This Saturday, March 8, members of the Pawtucket Lions Club will celebrate the organization's 90th anniversary of service to the community with dinner and dancing at Le Foyer Club on Fountain Street. Organizers say this will be a celebration of a group that has had a tremendous impact on local life for nearly a century, with members giving back in all kinds of ways. Gary Seal, a newer member and spokesman for the organi- zation, told The Breeze that the Pawtucket Lions Club is mostly made up of Pawtucket residents who want to make their com- munity better. Members of the nonprofit don't have a head- quarters, choosing instead to have an outward focus to "help people in the area," he said. "As an organization, the Pawtucket Lions is very impor- tant," he said. "We're always looking for new members, men or women, who are interested in giving back to the area and the needy." Whether they're testing stu- dents' eyesight at local elemen- tary schools, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, or giving out turkeys as part of the city's annual Thanksgiving drive, the Lions Club remains focused on activities that make a differ- ence, said Seal. A major annual fundraiser allows the Lions to give money to some 20 local organizations each year, including food pan- tries, shelters and youth orga- nizations like the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Club. Members helped establish Pawtucket's Octoberfest and help run the Pawtucket Arts Festival each year. Seal said his decision to join the organization was "well worth it" for the fulfillment he's gotten in giving back to his community. Brian Rawnsky, a member of the Pawtucket Lions for the past 35 years, said he's always been proud to be part of an organization that "fills a need in the community." How can you not want to be part of a group that buys eyeglasses for chil- dren who need them and feeds the hungry of the city, he said. By the 1940s, members of the Pawtucket Lions Club were doing their part to shore up morale during World War II, participating in bond drives and supporting families with service members overseas. It was during the 1950s that the club's reputation as an orga- nization that actively helped city residents was cemented, according to a written history on the club. Much of the activ- ity during that decade was in the form of donations to other groups and organizations with a mission of helping people. Membership increased, a trend that took off during the 1960s and 1970s when "unprecedent- ed growth" occurred. Helping with the establish- ment of Octoberfest in the 1980s was "something quite out of the ordinary" for the Lions, whose members helped man the "biergarten." The event helped shore up the organization's bank account and led to the creation of the Pawtucket Lions Club Foundation, through which the club has been able to meet many charitable requests. The founding of Octoberfest was a significant accomplish- ment, said Rawnsky, as it allowed the Lions Club to expand its reach and make a greater impact. Lions Clubs was one of the first major service organiza- tions to include female mem- bers in 1987. The 1980s also saw the start of the "Sharing Celebration," an event that still acts as the club's largest fundraiser and social event of the year. In 1991, the club began awarding the Melvin Jones Fellowship to Lions or com- munity members who show a "time-tested commitment to our motto and goals" and show themselves to be true humanitarians. The fellow- ship designates a $1,000 com- mitment to the Lions Club International Foundation to fund humanitarian projects worldwide. The 2000s saw the club, like many around it, struggling with its identity, according to leaders. Service organizations were losing members due in part to a feeling that their use- fulness was "outdated." The local Lions saw it as a chal- lenge, "choosing to embrace the questions and answer them by becoming more visible in our community and through- out our region," said leaders. According to Seal and Rawnsky, membership in the Pawtucket Lions has stayed steady at about 30 people for the past 20 years. There was a time when membership was near 100. The Lions Club continues to redefine itself in 2014, said Seal. The organization is as active as ever, giving back to the poor and sponsoring the arts and humanities. After a hiatus of more than 60 years, the organization once again is taking a leadership role in the district, providing a dis- trict governor in 2011-2012, Francine Murphy-Brillon, and a candidate for second vice- district governor in 2014-2015, Robert Andrade. The current president of the Pawtucket Lions Club is Jason Wells. For more on the Pawtucket Lions, visit www.e-clubhouse. org/sites/pawtucket/. Club members meet on the first and third Fridays of the month at 12:15 p.m. at Spumoni's, 1537 Newport Ave. Pawtucket Lions Club celebrates 90th anniversary; new members sought vAlley bReeze PHoTo by eTHAn SHoRey GARY SEAl, left, and BRiAN RAwNSkY, of the Pawtucket Lions Club. CENTRAL FALLS – The Central Falls-Pawtucket Non-Violence Initiative will host its second Peaceful Communities Conference on Saturday, March 8, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Central Falls High School, 24 Summer St. Parents and families will learn about peace education, life skills, and how to create "a culture of peace" in both cit- ies. Free breakfast and child- care will be provided. Mayors and school superintendents from each community will be on hand. For more information, con- tact Liandra Medeiros, coor- dinator for the initiative, by calling 401-935-8050 or email- ing Non-Violence Initiative to host Peaceful Communities Conference iN BRiEf

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