Lions Club: Volunteering breaks down barriers

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The Cranbury Lions Club is no stranger to volunteering and community service.

That would be the case for the students, adults and fellow Lions honored at the club’s annual awards dinner.

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The evening event on June 7 inside the Cranbury Inn in Cranbury Township was all about honoring community service, which the local club has continued promoting for more than 90 years.

“I think we did a good job of celebrating those in our community who have been leaders and help others understand what community service is all about,” said Louise Campi, former president of the Lions Club. “They become role models for it, so that we can encourage more people to be volunteers in our community and help others.”

It is not really good enough for people to be taking care of just their own, Campi added.

“When you volunteer and work with other people that you don’t know, you start to break down barriers,” she said. “You then realize that we are all the same. We all want a safe place to live, we all want a good education for our kids, and we all want a decent job to make a living.”

Several Lions were honored for their years of service with the Chevron Award.

Lion Frank Marlowe received the first for 30 years of service, Christine Thompson for 20 years of service, Roberta Marlowe for 15 years of service, and Phyllis Johnson for her 15 years of service.

One of the key highlights of the event was the awards and scholarships given to five students for their achievements. The students were selected for the Stan Thomas Community Service Award, Todd M. Beamer Memorial Scholarship, Dr. David C. Tudor Scholarship and the Lions “We Serve!” Scholarship.

“On the one side, we want to recognize and thank the students for what they have accomplished,” said Joerg Roscher, former chairman of the Lions Student Affairs Committee.

“But perhaps more importantly, we want to motivate them to further go the extra mile and to further generate impact in this world. And we hope that these awards will help them on their way.”

The Lions Club had received 16 applications for the awards this year. Each member of the Scholarship Committee ranks the applications independently that is followed by a slight discussion amongst members of the Committee.

The Stan Thomas Community Service Award, named after lifelong resident and Lion Stan Thomas, is given to two Cranbury students, who show the spirit of community service.

The award this year went to Sam Vachris and Petros Drakopoulos.

At the Cranbury School, Vachris served as student council vice president, student council homeroom representative, and has been an active participant in the Wingman program.

Outside of school, he raised $3,650 for the Ranger Lead the Way Foundation, which raises funds for disabled U.S. Army Rangers and the families of Rangers.

Drakopoulos is a Boy Scout patrol leader, assistant leader, and instructor. He has participated in events and initiatives such as the Cranbury Memorial Day Parade, Scouting For Food and the Craft Show.

At Cranbury School, he has served as a Student Council representative and participated in the school’s Perspective in Equity Action Club [PEAC].

Receiving the Todd M. Beamer Memorial Scholarship was Rohun Chivate, a high school senior selected for the scholarship, which recognizes a senior who demonstrates best citizenship.

The scholarship is named after Todd Beamer, who helped lead passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 in stopping terrorists who took control of the plane on Sept. 11, 2001.

A Boy Scout Troop 52B Eagle Scout, Chivate also led in the Princeton High School (PHS) Buddy Program, which organizes activities for special needs students. He has been the student body representative to the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education developing activities for better mental resources.

Chivate will continue his education at Northwestern University. There he plans to participate in music mentorship through “Crescendo for a Cause” and intern at the Metropolitan Planning Council.

The Dr. David C. Tudor Scholarship is given to a Cranbury high-school senior or college student that shows an extraordinary passion for science. This year, Nikolina Tacheva earned the scholarship.

She earned second place in two programming competitions while at PHS. Tacheva tutors and does volunteer work at the Bulgarian Cultural Center and in summer camps for English learners.

She plans to continue her studies in computer sciences at Rogers Institute of Technology. There Tacheva plans to also study environmental science and/or management.

The Lions “We Serve!” Scholarship is given to a high school senior or a graduate who has a high scholastic standing, exhibits qualities of leadership and character.

Earning the scholarship is Mary Mena, who has won the scholarship for the fifth year in row.

Lion Joerg Roscher (left) presents Mary Mena (right) with the 2023 Lions “We Serve!” Scholarship honoring Pat Meehan.

The scholarship award is awarded in honor of a Lion. This year the scholarship is in honor of Patrick Meehan, who recently passed away.

Mena did not speak much English when she came to the United States when she was 7 years old. She now studies pharmacy at the Saint Joseph’s University Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.

“She has not only outstanding grades, but we also know her as a person with character, that wants to lead the world into a better and more emphatic place,” Roscher said. “She wrote us about how and why she is fighting for her patients, caring about them, especially when they come from underprivileged groups.”

Community Service Award

Jerry Yochelson, the longtime Cranbury Cub Scout Pack 52 cubmaster, received the 2023 Community Service Award. He had guided and taught many children through Cub Scouts in his more than 30 years as cubmaster.

Former Cubmaster Jerry Yochelson (left) accepts Community Service Award from Mike Golisano (center), and Louise Campi (right).

“Through Jerry’s tireless efforts, love of Scouting and years of service, Pack 52 has flourished,” said Mike Golisano, current Cub Scout Pack 52 Cubmaster, who presented the award to Yochelson. “It is hard to count all the ways Jerry has made Cranbury a better place.”

“Jerry, the kindness with which you greet those around you is as consistent as your service to Scouting.”

Yochelson noted that it has been a journey through his more than 30 years with the Cub Scouts.

“I just love seeing the Scouts learn about outdoor skills, camp outs, hikes and learning about being a part of our community,” Yochelson said. “Scouting is a great thing and I’m sure glad I can participate and contribute a little bit to it.

“I love seeing the Scouts advance and the progress that they make. It is amazing how many of them have become Eagle Scouts … it really feels good.”

Excellence in Education Award

Tom Stinson has been an educator for 35 years. As a teacher at the Cranbury School, his work with students from kindergarten through eighth grade has had them engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Bridget Lundquist (left) stands with fellow Cranbury School teacher, Tom Stinson (right) as he accepts his Excellence in Education Award.

“The town of Cranbury has been great and very supportive of my program and ideas,” Stinson said. “The kids were always into whatever I proposed to them. They love using their hands, love using their tools, and gaining the confidence to do things they can do. They pick things up and learn life skills as well.”

Stinson teaches Industrial Arts and STEM. He was awarded the Excellence in Education Award because he is a Cranbury teacher who has made a significant impact through his work as an educator, which began in 1988.

“He is absolutely deserving of this award because he has spent decades developing amazing project-based learning activities long before there was the acronym STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math),” said Bridget Lundquist, a Cranbury School science teacher, who presented Stinson with the award.

Lundquist said she personally hears every single day the “excitement and passion” Stinson has for what he is teaching.

Stinson said being selected for the award was a big surprise.

“I had no idea that anybody was talking about me in this way,” he said. “I am very honored, surprised, happy and excited to receive this award from the Lions.”

Stinson said he hopes the kids he teaches are able to look at the world and realize they can make adjustments using “tools, machines and their brains” and changes not only to make their lives better, but also the world.

Lion of the Year

The club announced and presented Campi with Lion of the Year. She receives the distinction from the club as the Lion who best exhibits the principals of Lionism with in the club itself and the community.

“I was really surprised,” she said. “Lion of the Year is a circle of unbelievable leaders, and it is just a great honor to be a part of that group.”

The Lion of Year is selected by the five previous Lions of the Year.

At the ends of the awards night, Campi handed the gavel to the club’s new president Michael LaPoint.

Melvin Jones Award

The Melvin Jones award is the highest honor that can be handed out to a lion.

“Really the Oscar of the Lions Awards,” Campi said, noting it is not given out every year.

The recipients of the Melvin Jones Award are Phyllis Johnson and Pat Meehan.

“Phyllis Johnson is not only active here in Cranbury, but also at the regional and international level,” Campi said. “She has had a huge impact and it is about time we recognized her.”

Meehan also served in the Lions for years but had just passed away prior to the awards night.

“We had put in for these awards a few months ago and it is just unfortunate that he was not here to receive it, but we did want to make sure we presented the award and talked about all his great contributions to the Cranbury Lions,” Campi said.

“Pat was just there helping with every event on the Treasury side. He was a kind gentle giant, compassionate person and a role model Lion.”

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