Lionhearted effort: Deptford Lions making masks for those in need

Their masks are am accurate representation of the Lions’ underlying mission: looking out for the safety and welfare of others.

Walt Park Jr., Linda Kogan, Donna Freidel and Bob Kleinot have kept the Deptford Lions Club active and busy this summer by making masks for those in need. (Photo provided)

Linda Kogan had to catch her breath from laughing as she described the Deptford Lions Club’s mask-making venture.

Kogan has a broken wrist that hasn’t healed in months. Walt Park Jr., a fellow Lion, only has one hand as the result of a car accident.

“Between Walt and I,” Kogan quipped, “we have one set of hands.”

But they also have a sewing machine and two other Lions, Donna Freidel and Bob Kleinot, to help out with the project. And when there are more than a couple of Lions in a room, a task will get accomplished.

Since the beginning of July, the Deptford Lions Club has produced a few dozen masks—using fabric in their trademark gold color —that they plan to give away to people in need this fall.

“Wherever there is a need, there is a Lion,” Park said, echoing the club’s motto. 

The Lions haven’t decided on the recipients of their masks; they’ve been focusing on the production for now. The group’s interactions have been somewhat limited in the last six months as the COVID-19 pandemic has kept some people home and away from the bi-monthly meetings.

The regular meeting spot, Thursday night dinners at Chili’s on Clements Bridge Road, has been unavailable to them, too.

“We’re hoping to get back to as close to normal as possible as soon as possible. Everyone has to play it by ear because the second wave is supposed to come in the fall,” Park said. “We definitely will be helping out as much as possible as soon as possible.”

Using Kogan’s sewing machine out of Park’s house in Blackwood Terrace has given the Lions a mission to focus on while they wait for a return to normalcy. 

Like many organizations, the Lions haven’t only struggled with regular attendance at meetings but have also been unable to hold regular events, like a bike safety course, a fundraiser at Five Guys and their famous eye screenings at local elementary schools. Park said the Lions would gladly welcome new members to help with some of the projects they’re still working on as well as with planning for the coming months and getting back on track in 2021, too. 

With a pandemic still ongoing, there are plenty of people in need of the help the Lions provide.

“We support our local food banks, which more and more people are relying on (during these times),” Park said. “(Joining the Lions Club) is also a chance to get out and be with some other people for a couple of hours to help others. That’s always a good thing.”

Their masks are an accurate representation of the Lions’ underlying mission: looking out for the safety and welfare of others. 

Park, who uses a wheelchair since he also lost a leg in the aforementioned car accident, is asthmatic and has diabetes, too. He said others in the club have similar health issues that make them susceptible to COVID-19.

But he realizes there are plenty of other people in the community who face similar challenges.

“It’s all something we can work around, but you know, we have to take care of our own health so that we can take care of other people,” Park said. “Six feet apart, it’s better than six feet under. I wear a mask, not so much to protect me but to protect you. Because I don’t know if I’m OK all the time. Is it an inconvenience? Yes. But being dead is really an inconvenience […] It almost seems to be kind of selfish not to wear one.”

The Lions Club’s mission, meanwhile, continues to be selfless. They’ll wait out the pandemic and continue to find new ways to support people in need.

“It’s not about us,” Park said of having events that promote the club canceled this summer. “It’s about helping other people, those that need it more than us. That’s a part of the deal. We’re making these masks because it’s a project to keep us meeting as a club and to continue to help our communities. 

“We only meet for a couple of hours every other week, the first and third Thursdays of each month. And it’s kind of piecemeal. But the end product, hopefully, will go to people in need as a way to say, ‘Thank you’ for helping our community.”