November 24, 2017

Rehoboth Lions Club & Anawan Lions Club Celebrate Anniversaries

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Rehoboth Lions Club & Anawan Lions Club Celebrate Anniversaries

The Rehoboth Lions Club and Anawan Lions (the women’s organization) both have a long history of charitable work and service to the community. Both are celebrating milestones this month - the Rehoboth Lions Club is celebrating its 60th anniversary and the Anawan Lions’ is marking its 25th anniversary. The Rehoboth Lions are proud of the dedication that its members have shown in helping those in need in the community for more than half a century. “I think in this day and age that to have an organization last 60 years and continue to raise money at the level we do is quite an accomplishment. To be elected as President of that club is also quite an honor. The Lions clubs in Massachusetts raise more than a million dollars a year for eye research,” said Rehoboth Lions President Mike Salois.

At a time when other Lions Clubs in the area are closing, the Rehoboth Lions and Anawan Lions are still going strong and continue to grow. The secret to their success and longevity, say Lions officials, is their commitment to their mission and the opportunity to socialize with friends while working together to help the community. They also actively recruit new members and try to pass on their passion for service to future generations. “I think it’s the dedication to the causes we serve,” said Anawan Lions President Debbi Pires. “Our club is a very social club. Our meetings are not just work; we support each other tremendously. We’re there for each other. It’s a great network. I think that is a good reason why we stay together. We laugh a lot, too!” Pires explained. Both clubs meet twice a month and Salois says the regular schedule also helps keep the organization strong.

“Over the years at our club, we still have dinner meetings two times a month. That dinner is a big part. It’s nice. We get to socialize before we have the meeting,” Salois said. “It’s a combination of camaraderie and doing things together for a good cause and having a say in why you’re doing it,” said Rehoboth Lions Communications/Publicity Director Russ Latham.

Lions Club International Celebrating 100 Years
In addition to the local Lions Clubs’ anniversaries, this year also marks the 100th anniversary of Lions Club International. In 1917, Chicago business owner Melvin Jones brought together a group of businessmen and formed a new organization to help the community. The organization became the Lions Club and its members have spent a century helping others through many varied charitable projects. The Lions’ longest-running charitable project has been its support of eye research, and treatment to end blindness and visual impairments. That effort began in 1925 when Helen Keller asked the Lions to become the “knights of the blind.” It continues to be a key cause of the Lions, but the Lions’ work has expanded into many other areas including supporting research for hearing impairment and diabetes, providing medical equipment, helping seniors, donating to food and fuel assistance programs and more. Starting this year, they are also going to support pediatric cancer research.

Rehoboth Lions and Anawan Lions History
The Rehoboth Lions and Anawan Lions Clubs have a rich history. The Rehoboth Lions formed on June 5, 1957 under the leadership of the late George Sarkisian. At the time, the club had about 22 members; it now has 58. The club’s motto, like the international group, is “We serve” and for 60 years its members have dedicated themselves to serving the community. One of the Rehoboth Lions’ first community service projects was covering the entire cost of an eye operation for a young Rehoboth girl.

Two Lions Club members, Russ Latham and Jim Johnston, have been with the club for over 50 years. “We also have many that have been involved for 30+ years,” said Salois, who also served as president in 2010 and 2011 and has been a member for 12 years.

When the Rehoboth Lions first formed, women were not accepted as full members, but they did assist the men with community projects. They were known as “lionesses.” “It was an auxiliary group to the Lions,” said Russ Latham. In 1987, membership was open to women and they could become official voting members. The Rehoboth Lions sponsored the women’s group and the Anawan Lions chartered on Feb. 28, 1992. “I’m very grateful to women who had foresight to start this. It provides a cause to those who want to help people,” said Pires, who has been a member for 12 years. The Anawan Lions, like the Rehoboth Lions, has seen their membership grow over the years. Initially there were 28 members and now the women’s club has 42 members.

Kathy Amaral is one of the founders and is still an active member. She was Charter President in 1992 and served as District Governor. (Her late husband, James Amaral, was also an active member of the Rehoboth Lions for many years.) “They were the first couple in the state to both serve as district governor,” said Salois. “We worked hard to get the club started. I started with it because I believe in Lions Club International. I believe in the cause. We’re proud of what we accomplished,” Amaral said. “We do so much for so many people,” Amaral said.

Another founding member of the Anawan Lions is Bernie DeRoche. She served as the first Charter Secretary and is still a very active member. “We have ten members who were members of the charter club and it’s amazing to me that they have been active members all these years,” said Anawan Lions President Debbi Pires.

Salois said the desire to help others and to ‘give back’ is something that all Lions share. The Rehoboth and Anawan Lions Clubs each raise about $30,000 yearly. The Rehoboth Lions gives half of the money they raise to Lions International and the Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund. The Anawan Lions donates two-thirds of their fundraising to those organizations. The remainder at both clubs is donated to local causes.

Rehoboth Lions Activities & Fundraisers
The Rehoboth Lions serves the community in many ways. They provide medical equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches, medical beds and other equipment to those in need.

The Rehoboth Lions are also known for their annual Citizen Recognition Night, where residents nominate other residents who have gone ‘above and beyond’ to help the community. The event, now in its 16th year, will be held on May 10 at Hillside Country Club. “It’s nice because it recognizes people in town that other people nominate. There’s no fundraising. It’s just to say thank you and recognize people for their good deeds, whether you’re a Lion or not,” Salois said.

The Rehoboth Lions holds annual fundraisers that are more like community events because they are highly anticipated and many have become annual traditions in town. They hold seven clam boils every year, usually held at the Seekonk Rod and Gun Club. “They are very popular. We usually sell out,” said Salois. The annual Chet Munroe Chicken Barbecue, now in its 45th year, is held the first Sunday in June. The drive-thru takeout barbecue offers great food at a great price. The annual Lions Club Golf Tournament is also a popular event. This year it will take place at Segregansett Country Club in Taunton, in late summer.

Over the years, the Rehoboth Lions have sponsored many memorable events and fundraisers including circuses, carnivals, car shows, horse shows, the motorcycle run, and the Arts & Air Show which was a popular attraction for more than 20 years. “We’ve always been an active club. The numbers may change but it’s always been an active club,” said Salois.

Anawan Lions Activities and Fundraisers
The Anawan Lions Club also holds many regular events. Every year they sponsor the Christmas Tree Lighting. It moved from Bristol County Savings Bank to Redway Plain this past December. The event is free and they raise money selling stars to put on the tree. Proceeds go towards “Operation Shoebox.” In this district fundraiser, care packages made up of health and toiletry items, phone cards, books, DVD’s, snacks and more are put in shoe boxes and sent to military personnel from Rehoboth residents serving overseas. “That project is near and dear to our hearts. It’s to make their lives more pleasant wherever they are stationed,” said Pires.

As part of Lions International’s 100th year celebration, the Anawan Lions are sponsoring a “Legacy Project” to have a bench built near the Veterans Memorial on Redway Plain. On the bench will be engraved “Dedicated to those who serve.”
Since the club started 25 years ago, the Anawan Lions have been visiting Marian Manor Nursing Home in Taunton monthly, to play games and socialize with residents. “That’s our biggest senior project,” said Pires.

A big summer celebration and fundraiser is the Community Celebration & Concert usually held at the end of August at the home of John Ferreira. An original member of the Gatlin brothers, Daryl Gatlin, performs some of his country hits from the 70’s and a big cook-out is held. “It’s a great summer concert and a huge fundraiser,” said Pires.

The Anawan Lions also hold an annual Calendar Dance, a White Cane fundraising drive, and several food drives for the Rehoboth Food Pantry. The organization supports several youth sports teams in town and provides clothes and school supplies for elementary and middle school students. The Rehoboth Lions and Anawan Lions also sponsor an annual senior dinner that is always well-attended. The Rehoboth Lions have been running this event for more than 30 years.

Sponsoring a New Generation of Lions
In addition to sponsoring the Anawan Lions, the Rehoboth Lions sponsored Lions Clubs in Dighton and Seekonk. They also sponsored the Dighton-Rehoboth Leos Club at the high school, which has about 30 members and is also very active, says Salois. “It’s nice to see the younger generation getting involved,” Salois added.

Join the Lions
Although the Rehoboth Lions and Anawan Lions are involved in several causes and many activities, they don’t want people who may be interested in joining to think that every member has to participate in every activity. “We don’t want people to think they can’t get involved because the club does too much. Some members attend every meeting, but don’t go to every event. Some members don’t go to meetings, but they are at every clam boil from beginning to end,” Latham said.
“One of the things we say is that people give what they can give,” Latham added. Today, there are more than 1.4 million Lions members in more than 46,000 Clubs in 200 countries around the world and all are united by the single motto of “we serve.”

The Rehoboth Lions and Anawan Lions welcome new members. “It’s a great organization. I’m passionate about it,” Pires said. For more information, contact Mike Salois, Rehoboth Lions President at mgsc1@icloud.com or Debbi Pires for the Anawan Lions at debpires@hotmail.com.

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