The Lions Clubs International motto is “we serve.” When it comes to serving generously, the Evans City chapter might claim the lion's share.
Evans City Lions Club members Amy Rubinosky and Shelley Natali worked their way around town Friday to support local business owners in a variety of ways.
“It was to help our businesses, but also to thank everybody in town,” Natali said. “We put about $5,400 back into the Evans City community.”
Using funds raised during the club's November purse bash, that estimate includes a $1,000 donation to the Evans City fire department and a $1,000 scholarship to a local senior. The remaining $3,400 was dispersed among Evans City businesses in many forms.
The Lions Club bought meals, gifts and gift cards from Main Street businesses and distributed them to school cafeteria workers, borough employees and workers at other companies.
The event was a surprise for most recipients.
“Everybody was very happy, very pleased,” Natali said. “Lots of smiles brought to faces.”
Coffee Brake owner Stephanie Oliver helped Rubinosky and Natali kick things off Friday. The full-scale coffee shop and espresso bar filled orders for 30 gift cards and packed up 10 meals for post office and police department employees.
“We had been making some boxed lunches,” Oliver said.
Natali and Rubinosky began spreading “cheer” around 7:45 a.m., when they retrieved purchases from businesses. Distributing food and gifts didn't take too long, according to Natali, but did depend on people's schedules.
Planning Friday's event took about a week. Natali said the Lions Club is looking for new ways to reach the community and potential members.
“This is a new thing for us,” Natali said. “We actually had a different plan for our money … (But) we decided that wasn't important at this time.”
Natali said the Lions Club also gave three business owners an extra $200 each Friday to pay forward. The money didn't come with any stipulations.
“We just asked that they gave it to whomever they feel would benefit from it,” Natali said.
Natali said the Lions Club hopes business owners will use the donations to support others. It's especially important to help out neighbors during the pandemic, according to Natali.
Oliver said Coffee Brake closed for over a month when the pandemic first hit Pennsylvania. The business, which opened in 2017 and has about 12 employees, struggled to stay open when so many people were staying home.
“We just couldn't sustain business,” Oliver said. “It was for the safety of my employees, as well.”
Being part of Friday's event helped Coffee Brake regain its footing, according to Oliver.
“The Lions Club helped us to remind people that we were still here,” Oliver said.
“This is a thank you,” Natali said. “The community itself is what is important to us.”
As a small-business owner, Oliver feels the economic pressure the pandemic imposes. Closing her shop for more than a month wasn't easy. She said for many of her customers, stopping for coffee was part of their daily pre-pandemic routine.
Disrupting that routine doesn't help dealing with the ramifications of COVID-19.
“It was definitely a difficult decision,” Oliver said. “It's been important for us to provide that kind of normalcy for people.”
Coffee Brake is now offering curbside service. Customers can call in their order and drive by to pick it up.
It's not the same as sitting down and having coffee, Oliver said. But she wants her customers to know Coffee Brake is still trying to share a little “coffee happiness” with the community.
“It's hard to stay at home,” Oliver said. “I think everyone is excited to be back out.”
Natali said Friday's event is the first of several the Evans City Lions Club is looking to do to help people during the pandemic. Some other plans might include assisting with food distribution in President's Square.
After Friday's mission, Natali said she felt “fantastic.”
“We were just full of cheer,” Natali said. “It is such a wonderful feeling being able to give to the community.”