Queens Chronicle, February 28, 2013
On Sunday, the city’s only gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Lions club will get a big pat on the back for making big headway in a short amount of time.
The Queens Pride Lions Club, based out of East Elmhurst, formed less than two years ago. The 24 members are all long-time volunteers. But before joining this Lions club, an international volunteer organization, they felt like they couldn’t volunteer as themselves.
“I could never volunteer as a LGBT person,” said Ralph Gonzalez, a member and QPLC president Jacob Berelowitz’s partner. “You couldn’t go to a dance with your spouse or even think about being out.”
But with QPLC, the members proudly marched behind a rainbow striped Lions flag in the Jackson Heights Pride Parade. For a fundraiser, they manufactured cloth jar-openers with the Lions emblem printed in purple instead of the traditional Lion’s yellow.
“It’s a little gayer,” Gonzalez said with a laugh.
And on March 3, at the award ceremony at Russo’s On The Bay in Howard Beach, if QPLC members want to hold hands or embrace their partners they can.
“To us it feels like the heterosexual community is saying, ‘You’re one of us,’” Gonzalez said.
Two years ago, Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) worked with the president of the Corona Lions Club to put together the LGBT group. The Corona Lions club then sponsored the new group, because members cannot join without an invitation and a club cannot start without a sponsor, and once Corona signed on, the International Lions organization gave its seal of approval.
There are only three LGBT Lions clubs nationwide. The other two are in San Francisco.
The group then got to work on several projects, not just within the LGBT community.
Like many Lions clubs, the group focused on hearing and vision correction by donating hundreds of glasses and taking 100 visually and hearing-impaired children to the circus.
“We wanted to show that we help the general public,” Gonzalez said. “We are LGBT but we help; it doesn’t matter whatever you are.”
Club members also brought Lions Quest, an anti-bullying, self-esteem and tolerance curriculum, to New York City. Previously, the program, created by the international Lions chapter, only existed in two schools in New York — one upstate and one in Long Island. Through connections of their own, QPLC members had the program taught to 80 NYC teachers in October. Also, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, QPLC jumped in and helped.
In addition to these several programs, the group donated clothes to Positive Health Project and Fashion on Gender, a group that helps transgender individuals transitioning from one sex to the other, gather new clothing specific to the new gender.
Queens Gazette, February 27, 2013
Lions Club International, which is traditionally thought of as a heterosexual, family values group of volunteers is recognizing the extraordinary work of the first LGBT group of Lions volunteers in New York state.
Jacob Berelowitz, who is president of the Queens Pride Lions Club, an LGBT group of volunteers, is being honored for leading the group on March 3 at Russo’s on the Bay, 162-45 Cross Bay Boulevard, Howard Beach.
Some of the Queens Pride Lions’ accomplishments include:
•Helping survivors of Hurricane Sandy and raising money for a community organization in the affected Rockaway Beach area. The group is identifying visually impaired individuals affected by Sandy so that they can provide, repair or replace needed visual aids and equipment for the person for free.
•Introducing the “Lions Quest” curriculum into the New York City school system that addresses bullying, self esteem building for students K-12, substance abuse prevention and academic enhancement.
•Providing clothing to people who need it for job interviews.
•Producing a video which is broadcast on QPTV as well as online to give information on PTSD, traumatic event and mental health information post Hurricane Sandy and service referrals.
•Taking 150 hearing- and visually-impaired people to the Big Apple Circus for free by the club.
Two-time Grammy nominee Martha Wash is performing at the event recognizing these new community service volunteers of the Queens Pride Lions Club as well as Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who will also be recognized and presented with the Corona Lions Legislative Award.
For information on the group and services they provide, visit www.QueensPrideLionsClub.org.
Lions Clubs International Official Blog, November 6, 2012
The Queens Pride Lions Club is excited to be able to provide hearing and visually impaired individuals with tickets to the Big Apple Circus Legendarium on November 15. The club is providing 61 admission tickets to the NYC School Board of Education for visual and hearing impaired students, 38 ringside admission tickets to the Jewish Guild for the Blind and 20 ringside admission tickets to the Vision Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In addition, 20 club members and volunteers will be joining students at the circus.
Lions will also have a table at the circus, where they will display and distribute literature to help raise awareness about Lions clubs’ vision and hearing services, success stories, and local volunteer opportunities.
On January 14, 2012, NY1's The Call interviewed members of the Queens Pride Lions Club in studio.
_NY1, January 14, 2011
The latest New Yorkers of the Week belong to a volunteer organization in Queens that’s making a difference in the LGBT community. NY1’s John Schiumo filed the following report.
After living in Jackson Heights for 25 years, LD Clepper finally has a home away from home. "Especially now that we’re doing things that are going to help the gay/lesbian community," says Clepper. Clepper is a proud member of New York's first ever LGBT Lions Club. The club opened in Jackson Heights last year and is now home to 25 members and growing. "It's really exciting. That's my point of view. It is something that is long overdue," says Oliver Hummel, second vice president of the Queens Pride Lions Club.
After seven months, the organization is already making a difference in many ways, like helping transgendered New Yorkers prepare for job interviews. "We donated clothing to Fashion On Gender, which provides clothing to transgendered individuals who are looking for employment and need to look appropriate," says Jacob Berelowitz, president of the club.
Berelowitz says it’s a place where people can feel comfortable with their sexuality while giving back. And members say while the beauty of the organization is the ability to now pinpoint specific issues for LGBT members, they also cater to the needs of all New Yorkers in their community. "People see us so many times looking for marriage equality, but we are more than that. So, I think it is important to know that we are involved in the community as well,” says Ralph Gonzalez, a member of the club.
The Lions go back to the early 1900s. LGBT members can now be part of that history. Clepper says his father was a lion for as long as he could remember, but he himself never felt comfortable joining until now. "It's just a family tradition that I’m glad to be able to continue," says Clepper.
So, for continuing an old tradition in a new fashion, and for serving their community with pride, the Queens Pride Lions are the latest New Yorkers of the Week.
NY1, January 11, 2012
NY1 VIDEO: The first-ever New York-based LGBT-powered chapter of the Lions Club, a worldwide volunteer service organization, has opened up in Jackson Heights, Queens, and it has given a helping hand by collecting toys for children and clothing for transgendered people. For more information on the club, visit www.queenspridelionsclub.org.
_Queens Gazette, December 28, 2011
Chartered in 2011, the Queens Pride Lions Club is the first LGBT-powered Lions Club in New York and the East Coast. We are following in the footsteps of the other LGBT-powered Lions Clubs in the U.S. - the Castro Lions Club and the Visalia Pride Lions Club both located in California. Founded in 1917, Lions Clubs International is a secular service organization with over 44,500 clubs and more than 1.3 million members in 191 countries around the world. The organization aims to meet the needs of communities on a local and global scale.
Headquartered in Jackson Heights, the Queens Pride Lions Club’s goal is to bring the commitment of service the Lions Club is known for to the LGBT and heterosexual communities throughout the city. The Queens Pride Lions Club engages in projects and events that will make our communities stronger and safer. Projects have included participation in Behavioral Health Recognition Month; contributions to the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk; a clothing drive for Fashion on Gender, a clothing bank for women of transgender experience and collecting donations for the Toys For Tots Program.
The Queens Pride Lions Club meets the second Monday of every month at 7 p.m. at Queens Pride House, 76-11 37th Ave., Room 206, Jackson Heights. Visit www.queenspridelionsclub.org for further information.
NY Daily News:, May 24, 2011
Queens is home to the Unisphere, the U.S. Open and the Mets. And now the borough is also home to what appears to be the first gay-friendly Lions Club in the state.
The Queens Pride Lions Club was formed earlier this month in Jackson Heights and already counts City Councilman Daniel Dromm among its members. Lions clubs are volunteer service organizations, similar to Kiwanis and Rotary clubs.
"It's really important for gay people to get involved and do things for the broader community as well as for ourselves," said Dromm (D-Jackson Heights). "It's a great opportunity for the neighborhood."
The new citywide club, one of about 45,000 Lions clubs worldwide, will work on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues throughout the five boroughs - as well as for non-LGBT causes locally, organizers said.
Organizers also said they hope to combat negative stereotypes about gays and lesbians by doing good work in their communities.
"If we are a big enough club we can really impact and represent the LGBT community in Queens," said Yessika Giraldo, who was elected president of the new organization. "The more visible we are, the more we can fight against violence."
The group's first project will be a phone bank to support the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York State, Giraldo said.
Joseph DeGaetano, president of the Corona Lions Club, said he also spearheaded the push for the new group to create a safe and accepting environment for openly gay members.
"A club that had mostly gay and lesbian members could cater to the needs of their own communities," he said. "Who would better know what the needs would be?"
Lions Club International spokesman Dane La Joye said the organization is supportive of all types of Lions clubs - and in fact specialty clubs, based on professions, are very popular.
"We cross all cultures and boundaries," La Joye said. "If there's a need, there's a Lions club to meet that need."
Glennda Testone, executive director of Manhattan's influential Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, said she was also pleased. "We're thrilled to hear about the Queens Pride Lions Club," she said.