For the first time meeting in person since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Cranbury Lions Club celebrated and recognized not only its members, but the Cranbury community, during the club’s annual awards dinner.
The club meeting and awards night took place at the Cranbury Inn on June 23. The dinner is designed to recognize members, student scholarship winners, and recipients of the club’s Community Service Award and Exceptional Educator Award.
“The Lions are very closely associated with local community. Giving recognition to key people in the local community like we do with the Community Service and Exceptional Educator awards is very important for a couple of reasons,” said John Ryan, president of the Cranbury Lions. “A lot of these people it is their life and devoted their life to it. This is a good thing to do to reinforce what the recipients do.”
A key piece of the night and the club is community service and the promotion of service not just amongst members, but in encouraging Cranbury residents, families and students.
“This is what life is all about: it is doing things for people. At the end of the day you have got to ask yourself what have you done,” Ryan said.
As the evening event resumed in 2021 the induction of two new members kicked off the night’s festivities.
Each year during the awards dinner students are recognized and awarded scholarships from the club. In 2021, five students were awarded scholarships that night.
Louise Carroll and Tyler Cenci received the Stan Thomas Community Service Award, Princeton High School (PHS) senior Aurora Yuan earned the Dr. David C. Tudor Scholarship, and PHS senior Flynn Kinney secured the Todd M. Beamer Memorial Scholarship.
Rounding out the scholarship winners is Mary Mena who received the Lions We Serve Scholarship, which is renamed after each year after a Cranbury Lion who has passed. The scholarship was named the Eufronio Carreno Memorial Scholarship for the 2021 year.
“The scholarships recognize both the educational attainment that they have achieved and the community service that they have done. We look for both things in scholarships,” Ryan said. “What we are saying to the children of Cranbury is that you should be doing this. These are all kids that are going to do well. Our hope is that as they go forward, whether it is medicine, pharmacy, business or etc. that they will have gained by this.”
Throughout the event the awards and recognitions continued as the club honored Cranbury Board of Education Vice President Pramod Chivate, who is also a Lion, with the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award. The award recognizes a commitment to humanitarian service.
Additionally, Lion Frank Marlowe introduced and presented the club’s Lion of the Year Award to Mike LaPoint. The recognition is awarded to the Lion that best exhibits the principles of lionism within the club and Cranbury community, according to the club.
The Lion of the Year is selected by the five previous winners of the award.
“I think the Lions Club is a great community service organization and the members provide service all throughout the community. It is just great to see them doing well and honoring community members,” Mayor Mike Ferrante said.
A few years ago the Community Service and Exceptional Educator Awards were introduced as part of the awards dinner to recognize people who made a difference in the community.
The 2021 Community Service award went to Cranbury Public Library Director Marilynn Mullen. Ferrante presented Mullen with her award and a check that can go to any charity of Mullen’s choice.
“It is fun to be able to honor Marilynn for everything she has done and I think she has really set a strategic vision for a new public library. We are going to see that vision growing up on Park Place West,” Ferrante said.
Mullen has held every position in the library, which also followed as her second career after being a computer programmer. She was part of a key effort to establish a new library in downtown Cranbury and will also donate the monies from her check to the Cranbury Library.
Mullen was surprised when she heard she would be awarded the club’s community service award, she said.
“I love being the director of the library and running that. The library is more than just the director; it is the staff that helps everyone and all the people in the community,” Mullen said. “I see the library really as community and that is why the new library is so important, because it will be more of a community center where people can meet and gather. A community living room.”
The Exceptional Educator Award was awarded to Susan Genco, who is the Cranbury School District superintendent and Cranbury School’s principal. Her efforts in helping the school and district navigate the coronavirus pandemic at the end of the 2019-20 school year and in the 2020-21 school year were lauded.
Genco is also the Middlesex County Superintendent of the Year.
Cranbury Board President Karen Callahan would present the Lions award during the evening dinner.
“It has been a privilege to serve the Cranbury community, but also to be a member in Lions Club for the last 10 years. To be nominated for this award was very humbling and I was grateful for the recognition,” Genco said. “This pandemic had a set of challenges for us over a prolonged period of time that we had to get through, but teamwork got it done.”
The club, during the night, also announced the winners of the Eversight Fellowship Award. They were John Ryan, Jack Felczak and Joerg Roscher.
“The community knows the Lions Club is a service organization in town. We do fundraising, scholarships, and if there is ever a catastrophe we will donate certainly to that, and we do a lot for the food bank in town,” said Andre Mento, who serves as a vice president in the club. “I like the camaraderie and I enjoy working with people in the town to do good for the town.”