By Katharine Morgan CONTRIBUTING WRITER
---- — The Cooperstown Lions Club has a vision to give more than sight to those in need.
The local club was sponsored by the Oneonta Lions Club in 1950, and now has about 40 members. In order to become a member one has to have an interest to serve the community and live in the greater Cooperstown area.
“We have a mixed array of talent and people in our club,” said Rich McCaffery, past president, secretary and current public relations chairman.
Although the Lions Club, which includes 46,000 clubs internationally and 1.35 million members, was founded primarily for sight conservation, it has expanded its mission to many endeavors to help the community. Still, helping people preserve their sight is an ongoing initiative, which means eye exams and eyeglasses for those in need.
“We work with the CCS nurse to find out who needs help. We also help on a global scale, collecting used eye glasses throughout the year to send to Blind International Sight Centers to refurbish them and distribute the glasses to underprivileged nations,” McCaffery said.
Saturday the club is working on a cause closer to home, the food garden/pantry project.
Every year there is a president’s project, and this year’s president, Bill Senif, chose to collaborate with the organization, Growing Community and CCS on their school garden.
Students and some adults maintain a garden that enables them to eat their fresh produce in their cafeteria. Senif’s idea was to expand the garden and provide enough produce to benefit the Cooperstown food pantry as well as the school.
Site preparation begins this weekend. There will be a new water line put in to supply the expanded garden. The goal is to cultivate enough produce to regularly donate to the pantry in the summer.
Another project the Lions have adopted for this year is the Sensory Trail at the Glimmerglass State Park. Kicking off June 7, the group is providing a handicapped-accessible trail through the park. The trail will have sensory units where visitors can push a button and hear details about spots of interest, thus ensuring everyone has the ability to tour the grounds with the benefit of information about different topics to supplement their walk.
“We do a lot of initiatives with groups like Glimmerglass. For example, on May 10, in conjunction with the village we will be restoring five historic markers in our area that are in need of repair,” said McCaffery.
More efforts to help the community will continue throughout the year. The adopt-a-highway project involves cleaning one mile of State Route 28 between Cooperstown and Fly Creek three times a year.
McCaffery also talked about the Project Prom Safe Rides where the group offers to provide transportation at 4 a.m. Sunday morning after the prom.
The club also assists at the ATC Endurance sponsored Cooperstown Sprint Triathlon taking place May 25 at Lakefront Park, which is anticipated to draw its largest field of competitors this year.
The list of good works continues, including serving local senior citizens dinner at CCS before Thanksgiving and sponsoring lunches for Habitat for Humanity when they are building a house in the area. In order to fund their projects, the group sells Christmas trees as well as holding other fundraising events.
Two of these highlights are the fall Duck Derby at the Fly Creek Cider Mill and the village Winter Carnival.
“It’s a lot of fun to see the rubber ducks launched to race down the creek. The kids love it and it’s a good fundraiser for us,” McCaffery said.
The Lions do not forget Cooperstown’s youth. They are sponsors for the Leos Club. A group of approximately 50 young people ages 12 to 18 work in conjunction with the Lions in various community initiatives. This program provides the opportunity for teenagers to get involved with volunteering for their community.
Additionally the Lions give two scholarships to technical colleges every year.
Once a month, meetings include a speaker presentation.
“Usually we bring in people to showcase their talents and have them let our members in on what’s going on in our community,” McCaffery said. “Last week we had Steve Zerby of Design/build LLC of Westford come and talk about restoration of historical homes with minimum effect to let them become more heat efficient. The week before we had Joe Middleton who’s the newest manager of the Clark Estate and all their different entities.
“Next month we’re having Jim Miles, the general manager of The Otesaga come to bring us up to date on what’s happening,” he continued. “It’s not always about community. Sometimes we have things that are just for general interest.”
Lions Club meetings take place 6:30 p.m. September through June, on the first and third Wednesdays at the Tunnicliff Inn. For more information visit e-clubhouse.org/sites/cooperstown/.