By Nancy Epps, President

I welcome a return to normalcy following the year of the lock-downs, etc. Lions will still be respectful of social distancing as indicated and masks for those who feel more comfortable with them, but we have been busily returning to normal. I am going to catch you up on the first half of our year since I was not able to get a submission into the newsletter last quarter.

The Ponce Inlet Lions Club supports quite a few charities and, therefore, fundraising is critical to us. After the pandemic lockdowns of 2020, we were finally able to hold our biggest event, our annual golf tournament at Cypress Head Golf Club in Port Orange on March 6. Co-chairs Mark Oebbecke and Pat Morris put on another great event, despite impending bad weather, and we raised $11,102.81! Participants were entertained at lunchtime by guests Peggy Mullaney and Sherrie Adams, Conklin Center for the Blind with Additional Disabilities graduates who performed songs together to the accompaniment of Peggy’s guitar. Both ladies are totally blind but are gifted musicians. Also attending was Sean Brown, Southeastern Guide Dogs philanthropy representative who told his personal story about the life-changing effects of his veteran’s assistance dog, Pella, following his two tours in Afghanistan. Most of the funds raised by the tournament were dedicated to the Conklin Davis Center for the Visually Impaired and Southeastern Guide Dogs’ veterans’ assistance dogs program. We have sponsored 11 veteran-dog teams and are close to sponsoring our 12th team! Many thanks to the participants, the able assistance of Cypress Head and to our major sponsors, John Hinton (John’s Appliances), John and Patty LaBelle and the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, FL.

Speaking of the Conklin Davis Center – the Conklin Center was founded by Millard Conklin who was a local attorney and philanthropist and a Lion. He envisioned a service for the visually impaired who also had at least one additional disability such as deafness, autism, cerebral palsy, delayed learning, etc. These folks had historically been destined to a life of dependence on others with no hope of employment. The Florida Lions took on the project statewide and the Florida Lions Conklin Center for the Blind with Additional Disabilities opened in 1979. Thanks to the innovative, one-of-a-kind services they developed, clients became able to live on their own and achieved an astounding employment rate of 85%! For comparison, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov, in 2019 the general disabled population had an overall employment rate of just under 20%.

The Central Florida Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI) was founded in 1988 by Kathy Davis, a licensed mental health counselor who is blind and has been an advocate for the blind and visually impaired throughout her life. Their outpatient services for the general visually impaired population have helped thousands of people from birth to old age adjust to life with visual impairment. Both agencies received most of their funding from the Florida Department of Education’s Division of Blind Services (DBS).

Due to various factors, in March 2020, DBS discontinued the Conklin Center’s contract that provided 60 – 70% of the funding for the residential services and the residential program closed. The impact of the loss on the community was felt immediately, and efforts promptly began to restore the program. After many months of planning and negotiating, the Center for the Visually Impaired and the Conklin Center merged into the Conklin Davis Center for the Visually Impaired on January 1, 2021 to optimize the operations of the two agencies and restore the vital services to the multiply handicapped. As a board member, I am very pleased to announce that the residential program is reopening on July 1! In addition to the residential independent living and vocational rehabilitation services, the non-residential services of CVI to all ages will continue.

It is the only facility in the United States that trains the multiply handicapped for jobs and life skills leading to independent living. If you or your organization would like to tour the Center to see the marvelous work being done there, please contact them at (386) 258-3441. Lunch or dinner can be arranged with prior arrangements. The website is www.conklindavis.org

On March 28, Membership Chair Marian Schlaupitz coordinated a fish fry fundraiser at Down the Hatch. $2747.10 was raised, most of which was dedicated to our vision and hearing services, Halifax Urban Ministries Hope Place Shelter for families and unaccompanied minors and the Lions foundation that provides disaster relief worldwide.

Tragically, this was the last event Marian would attend. A few weeks later, during a relatively minor surgical procedure, her heart stopped, and they were unable to revive her. It was and is a significant blow to our club and to the hundreds of people who knew her land her late husband, Ed. The Ponce Inlet Lions held a memorial at Down the Hatch on May 5 that was attended by over 60 people who wanted to honor her memory. Thank you to the restaurant management for their gracious support.
McKenna’s Place Port Orange has been a good friend to the Lions, and we held another fundraiser there on April 26th. The recipient of the funds raised was Whispering Meadows Ranch that is dedicated to enriching the lives of those with disabilities, special needs, and veterans with PTSD through our recreational, educational, and equine-assisted programs.

Nancy Epps and Mahyar Okhovatian
Shirley and Mahyar Okhovatian

Our annual officers’ installation and awards dinner took place at Halifax River Yacht Club on June 2 and it was a great event, as usual. Among the awards that were presented, the most significant of the evening was the most prestigious award in Lionism, the Melvin Jones Fellowship, named after our founder. The 2021 Fellowship went to Mahyar Okhovatian in recognition of the numerous hours of work he expends on our vision, hearing, blood sugar screening and other services. Mahyar is always available to help in any way he is needed, including serving as Santa Claus for the clients at the Conklin Center! Officers installed were: President Nancy Epps; Treasurer Shirley Okhovatian; Secretary Pat Morris; Directors Alan ‘Deke’ Di Costanzo, Jeannie Ferguson, Simon Kokis, Mahyar Okhovatian and Dan Snyder.

Lto R: Nancy Epps, Jeff Follmer, Bill Wester, Mahyar Okhovatain, Shirley Okhovatain & Jim Hinson

On July 15, the long-awaited internment of our club’s time capsule will occur at 5 PM outside the Town Council chambers. The public is invited. The club was chartered on May 28, 1992 and we intend for the capsule to be dug up to commemorate the club’s fiftieth anniversary in May 2042.
We continue to support the food and gift card program at RJ Longstreet Elementary so that no family of a Longstreet student suffers from food uncertainty, and after a long pandemic-induced break, we will be returning to diabetes screening and awareness education. Our first major screening event will be the Port Orange Fall Festival over the last weekend of September.

We will not be having our regular meetings during the summer, but we will return on September 1 at the Ponce Inlet Community Center. We meet at 5:30 PM for social time with snacks and beverages, followed by dinner. Beginning around 6:30 PM, our meeting begins and we have various guests or engage in service projects. For example, we recently hosted speakers from the previously mentioned Whispering Meadows Ranch for those with disabilities and various special needs.

Please contact me if you would like to learn more: 
nancyepps@cfl.rr.com, (386) 795-2310 or speak to any Lion. It’s a great way to meet more neighbors and to give back for all the blessings we have received!


Page 1 – Town of Ponce Inlet, Citizens for Ponce Inlet (CFPI)
Page 2 – Candidates Forum, Ponce Inlet Election 2021
Page 3 – Meet the Candidates – Seat 1 (Mayor) – Tony Goudie
Page 4 – Meet the Candidates – Seat 1 (Mayor) – Lois Paritsky
Page 5 – Meet the Candidates – Seat 3 – Elizabeth Caswell
Page 6 – Meet the Candidates – Seat 3 – David Loh
Page 7 – Meet the Candidates – Seat 5 – Gary Smith
Page 8 – Garden Club of Ponce Inlet
Page 9 – Ponce Animal Welfare (PAW), Women’s Club
Page 10 – Ponce Inlet Lions Club
Page 11 – PICCI, PI Lighthouse Assoc., PI Veterans Memorial Assoc.
Page 12 – Marine Science Center

Page 13 – Ponce Church