EAST PROVIDENCE — Though having just recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, the Rumford Lions Club remains a vital and integral part of the East Providence community.
Late last week, a group of Lions gathered to reflect on their six decades of service and looked ahead towards their continuing efforts.
On the meaning of reaching the 60-year mark, Lion Richard Cappuccio explained, “It says we serve the community. We’re not just a social club. We feel as though we accomplish things.”
Mr. Cappuccio along with fellow member Tony Gomes have each been Lions for 44 years. They’ve seen the club at its peak as well as in down times. Their commitment to the cause, however, has never wavered.
“I can sum it up in two words, our motto, ‘We serve.’,” Mr. Cappuccio said of being a member.
Currently there are 27 Rumford Lions with two new members, Jason Fitterling and Retired Marine Corps Colonel Joseph Lydon, about to be sworn in.
That new total, 29, mirrors exactly the number of initial members into the Rumford branch when it was created in February of 1953. At its peak in the early 1970s, the Rumford Lions counted roughly 70 city residents as members. That total has ebbed and flowed over the years, though Mr. Trodson, who is finishing up his most recent tenure as the president of the local organization, a position known as “King Lion,” believes the membership will soon enjoy an upswing.
“We’re starting to see it bounce back the last couple of years,” said Mr. Trodson, himself a member for 27 years. “Like any busy or social service club, we’ve had some lean times. About five years ago, the membership was down, but it’s bouncing back. We’ve really been held together by a core group of members, who are devoted to the club.”
One of those “core” members is Dave Lanni, whose family has operated a barber shop in Rumford for generations. Mr. Lanni is the oldest current member at a still spry 91-years young. He’s been with the Lions for every one of its 60 years except the first.
“In the beginning I was given the opportunity to join the club by Jack Walsh. He said, ‘Dave, join the Lions because it’s good for your business.’ I said I didn’t want to join for my business. I wanted to join for the camaraderie and to enjoy the club. And that’s what I’ve done,” Mr. Lanni said.
All of the Lions expressed similar sentiments. An important aspect of being a member is contributing back to the Rumford section of the city, East Providence as a whole and other worthy projects.
Among the notable events in which the Lions annually participate and/or raise money for charity are its road race, which benefits their own scholarship fund as well as the Scott Gorham Memorial Fund; its chowder and clamcakes booth at the East Providence Heritage Days festival; the eye screenings conducted for some 2,500 local school children; placing flags at cemeteries in Rumford and elsewhere in the city on Memorial Day; selling East Providence-themed Christmas ornaments and the delivery of dinner baskets to needy families during the holiday season.
“We don’t just feed families for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We always put some extra food in there for a few more meals,” said Mr. Capello, approaching three decades as a member. “If a member has an idea for service, most of the time its accepted. We do things mostly here, but if something important comes around from outside we’ll do it.”
Peter Barilla, a 40-year Lion and past board member for Lions Club International, pointed to the $25,000 the Rumford branch raised as part of a larger state-wide donation of some $250,000 towards the construction of the local Ronald McDonald House, which supports families at Hasbro Childrens Hospital.
“The club does a lot for cancer research. Any time there’s a major disaster, like a hurricane, they’re raising money. They’ve been collecting for Newtown (Conn.) since the (Sandy Hook Elementary School) shooting. They’re doing things like that all the time,” Mr. Barilla said.
The Rumford Lions will celebrate their 60th anniversary on June 27 with a Spouses/Partner Night at its home base, B. Pinelli’s Restaurant on North Broadway. There, local member Bill Kelly, a Rumford Lion since 2004, will be recognized as his tenure as District 42 governor comes to an end. The event also marks the last of note for Mr. Trodson in the latest of his seven one-year terms as Rumford’s “King Lion.” He’ll pass the title of president to Charlie Tsonos.
“The Lions Club has such a great tradition of serving the community. It’s an honor,” Mr. Tsonos, a 14-year member, said of taking over as “King Lion.” “We’re always looking for new projects as well as keeping existing projects going forward.”
The Rumford Lions meet on the fourth Thursday of most months. They’re next meeting is scheduled for May 23 at 7:30 p.m. at B. Pinelli’s. For more information visit the club’s website at www.rumfordlions.org or email [email protected]