The Mattituck Lions Club has a few things they’d like you to know.
First and foremost they want you to know that they are here for you if you need them.
And they’re sorry about the traffic they cause with the Strawberry Festival — but more on that later.
Since 1952 the Lions have been quietly doing their good work, keeping much of what they’re up to hush-hush, like the Robin Hoods of the North Fork. They are always discreet, going to great lengths to protect the privacy of people they help. Reporters covering their annual Christmas gift delivery, for instance, are invited to stay while they finish the wrapping and load up the trucks, then politely excused as groups of Lions drive off to deliver gifts to the needy.
No one needs to know who the recipients are, they say.
But now the Lions want to get the word out to let people know that they’re here and they want to help.
“We’re not looking for a pat on the back,” they say. “We want people to come to us; we’re here to help them if they have a problem or a sickness. That’s what we’re here for.”
Their desire is to make the public more aware of the things the Lions do throughout the year in addition to their more public deeds. And they especially want people to know that when they patronize the Strawberry Festival and put up with the traffic, they’re creating the funds to supply the local hospital with a new X-ray head or buy the local sports team some uniforms or give a handful of gas cards to someone who has hit hard times. Their support goes beyond the North Fork with donations to diabetes research and the Cleary School for the Deaf and glaucoma screenings. They’re quick to write a check when disasters like tsunamis or earthquakes occur an ocean away.
And it’s all because of the Strawberry Festival. The reason the festival exists is to raise money to support what the Lions do, and that’s the bottom line.
On a chilly evening this week, a group of about a dozen Lions gathered together at one member’s house to discuss and figure out the endless details of the festival. They talk about donations and sponsorships they’ve solicited, how many grills they’ll need, where to put a large display on the crowded grounds of the Strawberry Festival.
Ah, the Strawberry Festival.
“Of course we know that we destroy traffic on the North Road on Father’s Day weekend,” they say. “But because of that we are able to do a lot of good. Donate money to schools, help families in need, children who have problems with their eyes but can’t afford a doctor visit. We know it’s an inconvenience for the locals to have the festival, but we’re doing this so we can help the community.”
They hope you’ll understand and consider your time in the traffic jam a donation and a way to support your neighbors. Every penny of profit from the festival goes directly to help people. “Most people who come to the Strawberry Festival trust that we’re taking the money they’re spending and doing good things with it,” they say.
When you go to the festival and spend money, that is a donation; that money is going towards the cost of a guide dog for a blind person, or to a nursing program.
Not one dime goes to any Lion, they stress. When you become a Lion, you are prepared in advance that it’s going to cost you money. There are no expense accounts or gas allowances.
“They’re just wonderful,” says Dr. Anne Smith, superintendent of Mattituck-Cutchogue School District. “They support our school in so many ways, providing scholarships, the donation for Project Fit over at Cutchogue East Elementary, having a significant impact on our students through support of the Leos Club and encouraging young people to get involved in community service.”
“They’ve been a quiet network of people who are just here to help.”
So the Lions invite you to come on down to strawberry hulling night and join a thousand or so of your neighbors for a fun evening. Then, bring your family to the festival. The local Girl Scouts, Leos, NJROTC, fire department and hundreds of other volunteers will join you to make this 63rd annual Strawberry Festival the best ever.
And by doing so, you’ll be supporting these organizations, among others:
•Peconic Bay Medical Center
•M-C School Scholarships
•Vacation Camp for the Blind
•Cub Pack 39
•Mattituck Rescue Squad
•Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch
•North Fork Soccer
•North Fork Parish Outreach
•Lions Eye Bank
•Peconic Panthers Football
•Southold Town NJROTC
•East End Hospice
•Eastern LI Hospital
•Clearly School for the Deaf
•Joslyn Center for Juvenile Diabetes
•Campaign Sight First
•Guide Dog Foundation
•Little Flower Children’s Services
•M-C Little League
•Empire St. Speech & Hearing
•Helen Keller Services
•Mattituck Jazz Band