According to members of the Greater Hartford Lions Club, to be a “Lion” is to have a mindset that puts community first, seeks answers to humanitarian problems, and is committed to making the world a better place.
“Being a ‘lion’ is simple, it’s about service,” said Andrew Stern, GHLC Membership Chair. “It’s about having a mindset of giving back.”
The International Lions Club, the largest charitable organization in the world, reportedly has over 48,000 clubs in over 200 countries with more than 1.4 million members.
Celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Greater Hartford Club has been involved in a variety of charitable causes over the past century, including blindness, hearing and speech difficulties, diabetes awareness, youth ministry, international relations, environmental issues and other programs.
The GHLC is the third oldest club in the state, many of its leaders have held state leadership positions and sponsored the formation of several other clubs in Connecticut.
When Stern joined in 1976, there were more than 100 members, but the GHLC eventually shrank to just 10. There was a similar slump in West Hartford, but in 2013 Stern got the district governor to sign off on a merger. Since then the club has had around 30 very active members.
“We’re always trying to recruit new members,” Stern said. “Often it comes down to word of mouth or someone we know who might know someone who is interested. It’s also just spreading the word at our various events. So far, our membership has remained constant.”
The Greater Hartford Host Lions Club has long supported several community organizations, including CT FoodShare, the American School for the Deaf, Fidelco, The Village for Families and Children, and Oak Hill School, among other organizations with cash, food donations, and volunteer work to organize this Year-round events including Thanksgiving dinner.
But besides supporting various causes, the club is most proud of its annual scholarships, which help high school seniors meet the rising costs of college.
The Paul Lowenberg Legacy, as part of the Hartford Foundation of Public Giving, provides the club’s scholarships, which are awarded to two Hartford-area graduates each year. The scholarships are $2,500 each.
“We’ve helped a lot of students,” Stern said. “Last year we awarded two scholarships, one for a girl to go to Boston University and one to go to Howard University.”
The club hosts its annual pancake breakfast, usually in late April, as part of its fundraising efforts. The event is usually the club’s largest fundraiser of the year, attracting around 150 people.
“We used to hold it every year at the American School for the Deaf,” Stern said. “But since they were no longer allowing outside vendors, we’re now hosting it at Farmington Avenue Baptist Church in West Hartford. The pastor of the church is now also a member of the association.”
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Stern said 100% of the money raised goes back into the community to help those in need.
To celebrate the club’s 100th anniversary in the community, a gala will be held on December 6th at the Rockledge Grille in West Hartford. West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor will present a proclamation to the club along with a representative from the Hartford Mayor’s Office, Luke Bronin.
Lori Beninson, former district governor and club council chair, will be the keynote speaker.
“She’s a great speaker and we’re honored to have her with us,” said Matthew Woods Weber, club treasurer. Weber added that current Lions Club district governor Dave Roberts will also speak.
An award is also presented to the Friends of Feeney, a West Hartford charity that helps children in need after tragedy such as the loss of a parent. The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce will receive a recognition award.
Stern said he’s busy reaching out to past members to get them to attend the event, which will include dinner, a bar and more.
Anyone wishing to attend the 100th anniversary celebration should email [email protected]