If there were an award for outstanding and selfless service in Maspeth, Queens, Mike LoCascio would certainly be the first guy on many's list of nominees. The longtime Queens resident and community activist was recently named President of the Maspeth Lions Club, a local chapter of the international service organization.
As the world's largest secular service organization, the Lions Club is active in over 600 countries with over 1.4 million members. Founded in 1917 by Melvin Jones, the club, whose motto is simply "We Serve," focuses their efforts on sight, hearing, and speech conservation, diabetes, youth outreach, and supporting the local communities where Lions reside.
LoCascio was first introduced to the club by members of his parish, St. Stan's, where he also runs a sports league for over 700 kids. Now a member of 16 years, he will serve as President for two. The group currently has 25 to 30 active members.
"It's a huge responsibility to continue the growth of the club and bring new ideas into the club," he said. The activist just started a new Leo division that's just for children under the age of 18 so young children can become more involved. He wants the young members to be involved in graffiti cleanup among other things to "teach them the importance of a community where they can continue to go on and become an active member."
The Club does more than a handful of good things every year for the local community. The main goal is always to raise enough money to buy and donate a guide dog to a blind community member. They have donated 10 dogs to date.
They are also the wheels for a donor program between the hospitals and the Eye Bank. "When people unfortunately pass away other people get the benefit," he said. In addition, the Lions collect eyeglasses and send them to countries in need, as well as give scholarships to local schools like Our Lady of Hope, St. Albert's and St. Stan's. Fundraisers include comedy shows, art auctions, street fairs, and organized bus trips to both Atlantic City and vineyards.
For LoCascio and other Lions Club members, there are no monetary or personal gains to be had as a Lion, just the self-satisfaction that comes with doing so much good. "I think I will be a Lion for many years to come," he proudly said. "I mean I do a lot of other community work but I will be a Lion for as long as my body lets me."
The best experience the current president has had with the Lions happens every year in December when the club puts on a Christmas party for needy children, buying toys and clothes for about a hundred families and providing them with a Christmas they would have otherwise gone without. "It was the most fulfilling thing I do as a Lion," he said. "It is really something special."
And LoCascio certainly knows what it's like to be a child in need. He lost his mother to cancer very young, at 8 years old. His family then moved from Ridgewood to Maspeth and has stayed ever since. The Sales Director of a local HVAC company seems to have filled every hour of his day with responsibility.
"When my day job is over my night job starts because besides the Lions I am the parish athletic director for St, Stan's sports," said LoCascio. "I am a member of the Moose, I'm on the community board. So there's just a few things."
The Lions meet every second and fourth Thursday of the month at O'Neill's Restaurant on 53rd Drive in Maspeth at 7:30 P.M. The President and his club would like to express that they are welcoming with open arms anyone interested in becoming a member.
At the meetings, members lay out an agenda, discuss future plans, and assess goals they have met. "It's really a group of people focused on keeping the Maspeth community and helping the Lions further underprivileged people, people who really may need a little help," he said. "That's what we are here for."