Lions in Action

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By Lion Naidoo R. Veerapen
Secretary, Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park Lions Club, Inc.

This month we wish to present pen pictures of two prominent Lions of the Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park Lions Club. We are pleased to present the Club’s President Lion Motie Phanisnarine, PMJF, and Lion Mary Diakite, MJF, Assistant Secretary & Leo Advisor. Both Lions have been with the Club for several years and have been strong contributors to its growth and success.

Lion Mary Diakite, MJF

Lion Mary L. Witherspoon Diakite, MJF (Melvin Jones Fellow), was born in South Carolina and grew up in Brooklyn, NY where she attended Midwood High School then Brooklyn College. She also studied the Liberal Arts at Queensboro Community College in Flushing, Queens. Lion Mary began her working life with finance companies, the EF Hutton Brokerage Firm then onto the Rockefeller Foundation. Thereafter she entered service with medical companies starting with the Rogosin Institute /Cornel Weill Medical Center in 1983 and retired in 2019 after working for twenty-three years with NYU Langone Clinical Cancer Center. In high school, an athletic Mary played volleyball and basketball, excelling in the former, and scoring at an average level in the latter.

Lion Mary is a charter member of the Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park Lions Club which received its Charter in June 2012. She quickly carved a place for herself in the Club, and community of Lions, as a member who is committed fully to the mission of Lionism, and selfless service. She has served the Club as Assistant Secretary for ten years and as Leos Advisor for six years and counting.

As Leo Advisor she is expected to be friend, counsellor, doctor etc., and it is in this role that our Lion Mary excelled as a Lion leader. Former Leos (junior Lions) have stayed in touch with her even after moving on to college. She remains their sounding board for college and personal decision making because they feel that they can always count on her wisdom and confidentiality.

In addition to her functions at a Club administrative level Lion Mary can be relied upon to participate in other Club activities such as Mothers & Father’s Day events for parents affiliated to the Club. She is always full of creative ideas such as presenting a package to college bound Leos with blankets and other paraphernalia that teenagers away from home will find useful.

During the last two Mother’s Day events the fathers serving snacks and refreshments were presented with aprons to look the part! In 2016 she received the Melvin Jones Award (MJF) from the Club in recognition of her contributions in different forms, financial, leadership and administrative. The MFJ was named after the Founder of Lionism, Melvin Jones, in 1917 in Chicago. Among her other recognitions is an Achievement Award received on October 12, 2013, ‘For Exemplifying Courage, Faith, Hope And Strength’ from the National Council of Negro Women Inc., Nassau County Section.

But a person who is strongly attached to charitable work does not stay tied to one form of service, and in addition to working through the Lions, Mary founded the Cherish Every Child Inc. in 2019. This is a 501C (3) charitable organization dedicated to providing scholarships to college first-year students, and since its brief establishment has made nine scholarship awards to deserving college students.

Lion Mary has one child, the musically talented Andrea Coln, who has achieved international recognition with her husband, Jeffrey, and their Illharmonic Orchestra. Lion Mary and her partner in service for twenty-five years, Abraham, live in Kew Gardens, Queens New York.

Lion Motie Phanisnarine, PMJF

Lion Motie Phanisnarine was sworn in as the fourth President of the growing Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park Lions Club on July 12, 2021, then again on July 11, 2022, following his reelection for the Lionistic Year 2022-2023.

Born in Port Mourant, Berbice, Guyana, Lion Motie was an avid cricketer and table tennis enthusiast during hie teenage years into early adulthood. After completing studies at the Corentyne Comprehensive High School, he worked for a few years as an auto mechanic before migrating to the United States to upgrade his skills as a mechanic. He first enrolled at the Thomas Edison Trade School where he completed studies in Auto Electric and Electrical Installation before moving on to the Apex Technical School where he was trained as a General Automotive Mechanic.

For the next four years he sought employment with various auto mechanic shops before he was recruited by the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) in 1990. At the DOT he worked his way up through the system to his current position of Auto Mechanic – Parts Personnel. Like most immigrants, Lion Motie surveyed the various opportunities available to him in his new homeland and received training and certification as a Real Estate Broker, a field in which he is still active. Twenty-five years ago, he started the Golden Arrow Bar & Lounge on 101 Avenue, Ozone Park and that establishment is still remarkably successful and is a popular place of entertainment in Queens. The food is tasty with courteous staff in a well-kept and comfortable environment. He was driven by the will to succeed and worked hard to achieve his goals. In fact, Lion Motie is constantly advising youngsters in his social network to first develop a vison and then work hard with the goal in mind. Eventually, everything will fall into place

Throughout his life, whether in Guyana or the US, his desire to give to those who needed has always been strong. It was natural therefore for him to gravitate to the world’s leading service organization, Lions Clubs International (LCI) and to seek membership of the Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park Lions Club (RHSOPLC) in Jan 2015. As he put it, LCI is a great organization performing miracles everywhere in the world and he wanted to be a part of that. He quickly threw himself fully into all the service projects sponsored by the Lions whether by his own Club or by other Clubs in District 20-K1.

The Golden Arrow Lounge also became a favorite venue for Lions’ meetings and fund-raising projects, including Cigar & Cognac events and Mothers’ Day Celebratory Lunches. Lion Motie’s generous contributions made these events successful in every way. He was a natural for the PMJF or Progressive Melvin Jones Award, named after the founder of Lionism, Melvin Jones.

During the pandemic years of 2020 & 2021, Lion Motie, and other Lions of the RHSOPLC led from the front in providing individual hot lunches to medical workers and active NYPD and NYC Fire Department personnel, without being ultra-concerned about their own safety.
In May 2021, Lion Motie was a member of the RHSOPLC Team that traveled to Guyana to donate notebooks to the Ministry Of Education for school age children in depressed neighborhoods, and 100,000 plus sanitary products for young women in the hinterland areas. In July 2017, he attended the International Lions Convention in Chicago, and was present again at the 2022 Convention in Montreal. He loves being around Lions!
In his personal life, Lion Motie is the proud father of three daughters and one son, and a loving grandad to eight grandchildren. He lives with his wife of forty years, Rajkumarie, in Richmond Hill, Queens NY.