Lions Club Celebrates Northeast Queens Activism

Group honors Udalls Cove Preservation Committee president at 59th annual awards dinner.

The Lions of Little Neck and Douglaston roared into Leonard’s of Great Neck Sunday night to host its 59th annual awards dinner.

The honored several very dedicated community activists, including Rovena Schirling, Udalls Cove Preservation Committee president Walter Mugdan and Pattie Rifino.

City Councilman Dan Halloran, R-Whitestone, and state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, D-Bayside, were on-hand to congratulate the night's award winners.

"The activeness of this Lions Club is not to be underestimated," Halloran said as he addressed a packed room of local activists and supporters of the club.

"Douglaston and Little Neck are considered some of the most desirable places to live in New York City and it's because of the people in this room," Braunstein added.

Indeed, the theme of Sunday's awards dinner involved giving back to the community.

"To the world you might just be one person. But to one person, you may also be the world," said Schirling as she accepted the award for Lion of the Year.

Schirling, who's been a critical fundraiser for the local public school system, was also recognized Sunday night for her donation of $10,000 to the Guide Dog Foundation, which she presented during the dinner.

"It's an amazing thing Rovena's is doing. I really can't believe it," said Little Neck Douglaston Lions president Charly McBride.

Lions International has long been a supporter of causes that assist the blind following Helen Keller's challenge for the service organization to become Knights for the Blind.

And, over the years, the Little Neck Douglaston Lions have sponsored many seeing eye dogs.

"We usually sponsor two dogs every year," McBride said.

But thanks to Schirling's donation, the Lions will this year sponsor four companion animals that will be trained by the Guide Dog Foundation.

"Believe me when I say that having a companion animal gives a blind a person their self esteem back," said Linda Jones, of the Guide Dog Foundation.

Jones, who herself is blind, attended Sunday's dinner alongside her companion animal, Seymour, and accepted Schirling's donation on behalf of the Guide Dog Foundation. 

"You've made the biggest difference in this entire planet, more than you will know," Jones said, addressing this year's Lion of the Year.

Mugdan took home the Man of the Year award for his work at Udalls Cove, while Pattie Rifino was named the Woman of the Year.

Then, as the award portion of the night rounded down, the live music kicked in, the meal was completed and the dancing began.

"We're really glad with the turnout tonight. Even with a down economy, a lot of people came out to show us their support and we're having a really great time," McBride said.


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