The Windsor Lions are a ubiquitous presence at town functions, particularly those on the Green.
For decades, the group has been dedicated to helping Windsor residents in need. They've done it all — from providing support to residents when the historic tornado of 1979 ripped through Poquonock to running vision and hearing problems that change the lives of those in town.
The club runs a number of events throughout the year to support its efforts in making a difference, including this weekend's Arts & Crafts festival.
The festival will be held on Sat., May 12 from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., and will feature 100 booths of original, hand-crafted items.
Windsor Patch recently spoke with 35-year Lions member Lou Marando about the club and its work in the community.
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Windsor Patch: Everyone is somewhat familiar with the Lions Club — we've all seen you on the Town Green selling popcorn — but what exactly is the club and its purpose?
Lou Morando: The Lions is the largest service organization in the world and our slogan is "We serve." We were initially dedicated toward helping the blind. We've gotten into hearing issues, we've gotten into diabetes issues now, and, as far as the Windsor Club goes, which is now 60 years old, we have been at the forefront of helping people in Windsor with sight problems.
WP: Can you tell me more about the program?
LM: We've been doing this now for 20 years. Any school child in Windsor that has eye-care needs (glasses, exams), we've got a relationship with all the nurses and the social workers, and they'll contact us to tell us the child is in need. We will then direct them to a local optometrist who works for us, and [the child] will get free exams and free glasses and lenses.
I have seen kids go from pre-school all the way to high school graduation where we take care of their eyeglass needs... We also work with Social Services and the town, and if there's any senior or adult in the town that has eye-care needs, we will take care of their glasses also.
Four years ago, we were approached by Windsor Social Services about a man in his 40's who developed cataracts in both eyes. He lost his job because of it. He couldn't see his blueprints. He had no insurance. We paid for his cataracts surgery, an he got his vision back.
WP: What are some of the other programs the Lions are involved in in town?
LM: We have the same type of relationship with audiologists. We send hearing aids we collect to the audiologist, they rebuild them, so when we refer a person in need of a hearing aid, the doctor will ry to utilize one of the hearing aids we send them.
At the same time, we support the Windsor Food and Fuel Bank. We're running a food drive in July at Geissler's for the Food Bank. We also give $3,000 a year in scholarships at Windsor High. We support the Caring Connection. We help the PAL of Windsor, the ambulance fund, and on and on and on.
WP: Your annual Arts & Crafts festival is being held this weekend. Can you tell me a bit about that event?
LM: This festival has been going on for 25 years on the Mother's Day weekend, and we take over the entire green in front of town hall. We have over 100 exhibitors, and these exhibitors are making handcrafts. There's no mass-produced products allowed in these booths… So we're going to see everything from metal work to wood work to paintings to photography, jewelry, and all up and down the line… We'll also have a food booth. We'll have Lions there all day long, cooking and preparing food.
WP: What inspired you to become a Lion?
LM: I had moved into Windsor back in 1972, and my job was taking me out of town all the time. I didn't know what was happening in town, I didn't know anybody in town. And my father-in-law was a Lion. I figured I've got to get involved with the town somehow, I've got to give something back and keep in touch. So I went to a Windsor Lions pancake breakfast — It was at the VFW at the time. As I walked in the door with my family, I was greeted by a couple of Lions who said "Welcome to our breakfast. Can we talk to you about what the Lions is all about?" We sat down and spent maybe five, ten minutes, and I said "You know, I want to give back to the community. This is one way I can do it."
There are a lot of projects you can't do as an individual, but when you work as a group, together you can accomplish almost anything. That's what we do.
WP: Why is it important for you to give back to the community?
LM: I've developed relationships and friendships — that's my reward. I've developed tremendous friends; have had them for 25 years because I worked within this organization. So I can say if I wasn't doing this, if I wasn't trying to sell flowers on a rainy day and building a relationship with the guy standing next to me, I wouldn't have these friendships.
WP: Are you looking for members and how does someone join?
LM: We're always looking for members... We look for volunteers to help us serve the community. If they're interested in becoming a Lion, stop any Lion at any activity. This Saturday on the green, come to our booth. We've got information on what the Lions Club is all about, as well as applications