MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Mahopac officially has a new Lions Club.
The town once had a Lions Club, but the service organization died out about eight years ago.
Back in April, Angelo Purcigliotti, membership director for the Lion’s 20R-1 District and a member of the Somers Lions Club, set his sights on resurrecting the club in Mahopac. Twenty members is the minimum requirement to create a new charter that Lions Club International (LCI) can approve, and last month that goal was reached.
“I am happy to announce that we have submitted the names of 23 charter members to Lions Club International,” he said. “They are in receipt of all applications and entrance fees.”
At a meeting last week, the new club elected its first slate of officers. Kristen Plitnick-Sullivan was named the first president; Corinne Stanton; first vice president; Brian Miller, second vice president; Saini Clarke, secretary; Gail Del Bene, treasurer; Chris Paleo, membership chair; and Robert De Lucia, LCI Foundation coordinator.
“I was always confident [we could start a new club], but you have to be reserved in your expectations,” Purcigliotti said. “We had some good discussions with the Chamber of Commerce and I felt optimistic. It was an interesting journey.”
Purcigliotti, who has had a hand in starting several new Lions Clubs throughout the region, said the Mahopac chapter was started relatively quickly.
“Most times, it doesn’t happen this fast,” he said. “We had a grand total of four meetings and then we had the club. It started with two people and by the third meeting we were very close [to the required 20 members], and by the fourth [meeting] we put it over the top.”
But Purcigliotti said the work isn’t finished. Recruitment is ongoing.
“We have a nice cross-section of people and there are some who have indicated they will join, but haven’t at this point,” he said. “Some in town government have indicated an interest in joining. We anticipate that. We also want to make inroads into the school system and get that community involved. What works the best is when the organization is comprised of community and business, local government and the school system.”
Purcigliotti said he also would like to start a Leo Club (a junior Lions Club) in town to grow interest in the Lions Club at an early age and develop a feeder system for new members.
“There is a Leo-to-Lions program so when they graduate high school, they can join the Lions,” he said. “They can keep their roots in something if they come back to town after college. All their Leo service would then count as Lions service. It is something we are always interested in doing.”
Purcigliotti said that he and District Gov. Steve DeName will remain with the club for the next two years to act as advisors.
“We will sit in the back of the room and keep our mouths shut,” he said. “We won’t tell them what to do; we are there as a resource and to provide guidance. Every club we start we tell them, you do it your own way; forge your own identity. We have six new officers now and I sent them their manuals regarding each of their offices and will send them more info to help them.”
Purcigliotti said there are still some “nuts and bolts” items that need to be figured out, such as where and when to meet and creating a dues structure.
“We also have to establish two bank accounts—charitable and administrative,” he said. “Those two things can’t be co-mingled.”
And, of course, the fledgling club must decide what sort of projects it would like to take on.
“That means talking to people in local government and other organizations and doing a needs assessment to see what is possible and what to try first,” he explained. “It will be a slow process—little steps toward a big end. We will do our best; we are committed. We have some people who know how to get things done.”
Plitnick-Sullivan, who owns KPS Agency, an insurance business in Mahopac, said she is ready to hit the ground running and already has lined up the first fundraiser for the Mahopac Lions. It will take place at the Putnam Count Gold Course on Friday, July 14, as part of the county’s Friday Night Barbecue Concert Series. That night, the featured performer is Tramps Like Us, a Bruce Springsteen tribute band. Plitnick-Sullivan is friends with Mark Falore, who does the singing in Tramps Like Us and convinced him to be part of the fundraiser. As a result, part of the proceeds from the night’s show and barbecue will go the March of Dimes and some will go to the new Mahopac Lions Club.
“That will help our club get off the ground,” she said.
Plitnick-Sullivan said she joined the club as a charter member because she “really wanted to be involved in something good that will help people.”
She said when she was growing up, her mother was president of the Kiwanis Club, which inspired her to accept the role as charter president.
“I remember seeing her up there with her gavel,” she said. “I was proud of her. She didn’t have an easy life and that was something that she cared about. I know she’s looking down on me and smiling. At the meeting, as they were going around the room [nominating officers] I was thinking to myself, I hope no one else wants to be president because I would really like to kick this club off.”
Plitnick-Sullivan envisions future Lions Club projects where it would join forces with Drug Crisis in Our Backyard to help raise awareness of the opiate epidemic, as well as working with Community Cares “to see what opportunities there are.”
She noted that Mahopac is recognized for its service organizations and charities and sees the Lion Club fitting right in.
“We aren’t competing with each other,” she said. “We can all come together and do something. It’s very exciting.”