Jul 28, 2014
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Yorktown Lions Club Celebrates 50 Years of Service

Current president of the club Joseph Straci will be replaced by incoming president Maria Marks on Saturday during their gala.

Yorktown Lions Club Celebrates 50 Years of Service

It was 50 years ago when a man by the name of Charles Franzo suffered from serious eye problems and had financial troubles.

But when a Lions Club organization helped him by giving him "medical, financial and mental support," he decided his town also needed a local chapter of the Lions Club to support its residents. 

In 1961, Franzo approached the Peekskill and Katonah Lions Club to help form a charter in Yorktown, which they sponsored. And over the last 50 years, the Lions Club has made tremendous contributions in helping its community.

This Saturday, the Yorktown Lions Club is celebrating its 50th anniversary, or its Golden Jubilee.

"Humanity is our goal, it's our focus," said current Yorktown Lions Club President Joseph Straci. "Anything we can do to serve the best interest of human being, that is what we do."

And while their anniversary is a moment to celebrate, it's also a chance to continue raising money as their work doesn't stop.

"While celebrating 50 years of dedicated service to the community," Straci said of the Golden Jubilee, "It serves us also as a way to raise money, which of course will be dedicated to projects."

The first project the Yorktown Lions Club was ever involved with was creating a glaucoma screening program, and gradually added blood pressure and diabetes screening programs, Straci said. Since then, members have raised money for the blind, have made contributions to the victims of the Katrina disaster, 9/11 and the Japanese earthquake. 

"We're here to provide help, support to a number of needed areas of concerns," Straci said. "Our major focus is blindness. Over the years we've played an important role in helping people who have vision problems."

He couldn't list just one major accomplishment of the Club, because there were so many he said, but rather he spoke about the various ways members are involved in helping and volunteering in their community. 

Straci, who has been a member of the organization for 30 years, said the Lions Club is an internationally recognized organization. 

"We are so involved," he said. "The point of the matter is we do anything and everything to better the human condition."

Over the last 10 years, the Club has raised more than $260,000 and 100 percent of the money they raise goes back to the community. 

Since the beginning, the Lions Club has been helping Guiding Eyes for the Blind, the non-profit guide dog school based in Yorkotwn.

Some of the first gifts included a used piano,  small tape recorder, and audio book. Now, members have helped with funding for dog harnesses, benches, the memorial fountain, as well a sponsoring of the annual party for the graduating class. The Club also collects eyeglasses to be donated to those in need, mostly in third world counties, Straci said. 

In the 1960s, the Club started the tradition of giving out annual scholarships to deserving high school seniors. In 1997, under the guidance of the Lions Club, the Yorktown Leos Club, the youth volunteer group, was formed. The Lions Club also sponsors a number of local organizations devoted to children, including the DARE program, Alliance for Safe Kids, scouts and SPARK. 

"We care about our youth," Straci said.

The motto of the Lions Club is "We serve." The Lions Club also supports the Midnight Run for Homeless, concert series, food pantries, veterans clothing donations, Halloween parades, Easter egg hunt, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and other local families and individuals in need. The largest contributions made to the town of Yorktown in its history, Straci said, was the Jack DeVito gazebo, which was build in honor of past president Jack DeVito who passed away in 1993. 

Straci said his wife of 50 years, Carol, has supported him over the years while he was involved with various organizations.

"Without her I wouldn't have been able to do the many things that I have been privileged to do," he said.

On Saturday, during the Golden Jubilee, Straci will be replaced by incoming Club President Maria Marks, who is the second woman president in the history of the Club.

"She is a hard worker," he said about her. "And a dedicated individual to the concept of Lion-ism."

At the event Robert Cecere, Joseph Visconti and past recipients of the Melvin Jones Award will be honored for their service and overall contributions. Joseph Visconti, President of the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce, will be the recipient of the Robert Uplinger Award.

"What's nice about Yorktown, it's a truly community where everybody tries to help one another," Straci said. "We're always open for people to join us and help us do the things we do, to focus on the betterment of the community."

He said he was thankful to the Lions Club for giving him the opportunity for serving the community and that he would continue to stay involved.

"We care and we serve," Straci said. "You feel good when you do something good."

Golden Jubilee will be held at Sinapi Ceola Manor, 489 East Main St. in Jefferson Valley on Saturday, June 25, at 6:30 p.m. There will be cocktails, dinner and dancing. Donation of $75 per person. For further information, please call (914) 271-6062.

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