Since his election as president of the Valley Stream Lions Club last July, T.J. Anand has urged his members to do more work, both for the international organization and the Valley Stream community. A second-generation Lion who has been with the group nearly 40 years, Anand believes in giving back to his community.
Anand became involved in the organization when he was 18, when his father was invited to join the Manhattan chapter. His father was excited, he said, because he had not been able to join in India. “In other parts of the world, especially Asia – India, China, Japan, — it’s more prestigious,” Anand explained. If “you’re part of the Lions Club, it’s a prestige that’s mostly for the rich and the elites.”
Anand joined initially because he thought it would help him to network with other members from Manhattan. But as he became more involved in the organization, his goals shifted. “When you join, and then you start doing work with the underprivileged and the handicapped and the children, your perspective kind of changes,” he said. “So, as much as you enjoyed the networking, then you realize there’s a lot more important things to do when you’re a lot more fortunate than other people in this world.”
“What T.J. has done for us is he’s given all the members of the club the opportunity to improve their leadership skills,” said Janet Mahabir, a former club president. “He sort of introduced me to how to be a better Lion [and] how to get more involved in the district,” she added.
Besides heading the Valley Stream chapter, Anand also serves as the district governor. In that capacity, he tries to develop leaders for the organization in the 16 states that he represents. As governor, he started an annual holiday party for the district and invited children served by the Nassau County Department of Social Services. “We gave them food and we gave them gifts and tons and tons of stuff,” Anand said. “I’m very proud of initiating that party.”
Anand said he would like Mahabir to become the next district governor for an area, which, in addition to encompassing Nassau County, also includes the British territory of Bermuda. Mahabir laughed when he mentioned the idea at Sip This on Jan. 24.
Mahabir joined the club in April 2012 because she wanted to continue her parents’ legacy of community service. “I saw them doing it, and it was a habit that I sort of grew up with,”Mahabir said. “So when I found the vehicle to do that in my community in Valley Stream, where my business is, it just made sense.”
Mahabir went on to serve as the club’s president until she yielded the gavel to Anand. One of the initiatives she worked on was a project to help students learn more about environmental protection. She partnered with Brandel-Murphy Youth Foundation in a benefit to plant garden at the Wheeler Avenue School that raised $5,000. Since the garden was started, students at the school have used it to learn more about plant diversity.
“I have visited the garden and witnessed the excitement as students speak about the plants they are growing, and how [the garden] relates the curriculum and practicing solutions to real-world issues,” District 13 Superintendent Constance Evelyn told the Herald in 2016, adding that it was a “wonderful addition” to the school.
While still serving as district governor, Anand, now 56, ran unopposed for the club presidency in the July election. Under his leadership, the club organized two food drives to help sustain residents of Puerto Rico and Texas as they tried to rebuild after the devastating hurricanes of last September. Club members also raised money for scholarships for high school seniors and are planning a dance in June for the visually impaired.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to the satisfaction of making someone’s life better,” Anand said.