Niles Lions Club marks 70 years

NILES — For the past 70 years, Niles Lions Club members have dedicated time to providing eye care to local residents in need.

The club marked a milestone this summer. It was established July 29, 1948 — 70 years ago — by a local businessmen who saw the need.

Anthony Nori, who has served as King Lion for the club and has been a member for more than 35 years, said there were 30 members when the club was established in Niles with the help of other Lions Clubs. Over the years, the club has purchased between 15,000 and 20,000 pairs of glasses for children and adults.

“Our basic function is we provide free eye care for people and also help to subsidize those who battle diabetes,” he said.

Nori said interviews are held by club board to see who they can provide help and assistance to.

In addition to glasses, the club has also provided four pilot dogs at a cost of $12,000 each for the dog and training, Nori said.

Joseph Rossi Jr., a 40-year member, said three members of his family have been Lion Club members, including his father and son.

Rossi said the Lions Club holds an Easter egg hunt and Niles tree lighting ceremony annually as well as raise money for an annual scholarship to a graduating Niles McKinley High School senior.

Joseph Cornicelli, who has been a member for 52 years, said a friend had asked him to be a member.

“I felt it was a way I could help the community,” said Cornicelli, who has served as King Lion and other positions.

Cornicelli said the biggest change he saw is when women became members more than 20 years ago and were very active with the club. Membership in the club is for anyone age 18 and older.

Joseph Rossi III said he joined when he was 18 and has been a member for 27 years and was one of the youngest King Lions. He said that even before he joined, his father would bring him to the father-and-son nights for meals.

“When I was in high school, I saw what was taking place and wanted to be part,” Rossi said.

The club meets on the second and fourth Wednesdays each month at Amen’s Corner in Girard. The club has met over the years at Cafe 442, the Silver Nugget, and McMenamy’s.

Marian Nori was one of the longest-serving women members, with 15 years. Dori Kagarise has led the club as the president for several years.

Cornicelli said when the club was strictly for men, the wives still helped by preparing food for events, such as steak fries, and held card parties as fundraisers.

Nori said many organizations today face challenge of getting new members and retaining them. Cornicelli said younger people are working and very involved with their family and children’s sports and school activities.

“If they join, they don’t stay long,” he said.