Susan received the Economic Development Commission’s Volunteer of the Year Award at their Annual Awards Dinner & Silent Auction at The Kate on January 10.. Senator Richard Blumenthal brought US Senate Award Certificates.
Here is the content of a Zip06 article from January 2022 in which Susan describes her commitment to the Lions Club and Volunteerism. She had been selected as Person of the Week. We are so proud of Susan and all her accomplishments and thank her for her commitment and contributions to the Old Saybrook Democratic Town Committee.
“Honestly when people ask what is a Lion, I say well, I don’t know what a Lion isn’t,” Susan Esty says.
For Susan, being a member of the Old Saybrook Lions Club is just another way for her to give back to the community she holds so dear. Susan says she’s been involved with the Lions Club since 2018.
“Especially since I retired, I have more time to work on things with them,” says Susan, explaining how she got started with the club.
“Mostly I was introduced by a customer. They explained what they were to me and what they did seemed like a good fit for me,” Susan recalls.
The Lions Club is a nonprofit that sees to serve the community in a variety of different charitable ways.
“I guess it’s better to ask what don’t they do,” Susan jokes. “We ask where is there a need? Then we sit down and try and figure out a way to make it better.”
Susan says the club has done everything from raising money to build the gazebo on the green to helping with food pantries, coat drives, and community clean ups. But one program sticks out above the rest.
“The most important thing we have is helping blind people and people who could become blind,” Susan says.
According to Susan, the club’s involvement with working with the blind and vision impaired dates back to Hellen Keller approaching the founder of the national club to ask for assistance. It’s a cause that still resonates today.
“We have since then taken that on and here in Saybrook we do a kids visions screening in the schools,” says Susan.
The club, free of charge, provides a vision screening that quickly tests kids for common vision issues. The school nurses are then notified if any issues are detected.
“Even in Old Saybrook people are surprised, but we find 10 percent of kids come up with problems parents were previously unaware of. To me, helping with that is so important,” Susan says.
To further help with the vision program, Susan says the club currently is collecting used eye glasses, sun glasses, and magnifiers—even if broken—with droboxes at the Acton Public Library and Town Hall. The glasses are then taken to Niantic in early May where they are cleaned and repaired. The new glasses are eventually distributed to those in need in the United States and internationally.
“Yearly in Old Saybrook, give or take a few, we collect around 1,000 glasses,” Susan notes with pride.
Besides the glasses drive, another annual Lions Club related activity at which you can find Susan is the monthly Social Services Help Day. Help Day is a monthly service by the town’s social services department that allows people in need to be provided with food. Susan says the town works with the schools, seniors, and Youth & Family Services to make sure people who need the assistance are aware it’s available.
“It takes about 20 volunteers to run and we supply the volunteers,” Susan says.
Susan estimates that over the course of several hours the event helps about 150 to 175 people a month.
Susan stresses that helping give back to the community isn’t something she and the Lions can do without help.
“It’s not just about us. We partner with others a lot to try and get things done,” sometimes even town agencies, Susan says. “Our Public Works Department is phenomenal. Whenever we have a small problem, we can call and they say they’ll work on it and they do. Having those kinds of partnerships brings the town closer,” says Susan.
Most people probably know Susan from running Esty’s, a fixture on Main Street for decades that closed its doors in 2020. Since the business closed, Susan says she’s kept busy staying involved with the Lions Club as well as the town. She’s the chair of the Parks & Recreation Commission and a member of the selectman’s Ad Hoc Preserve Committee for the and the selectman’s Ad Hoc ARPA Committee.
“I got involved because I wanted to give back to the community with things I like to do,” Susan explains. “You can’t do a good job without a good team and all the boards I’m on we have a dedicated group who works hard to get things done,” says Susan.
Susan says that all her life she’s been interested in community volunteering, a trait she credits to her upbringing.
“Giving back to the community and volunteering to make sure the community is better than how you found it—I was brought up that way,” says Susan. “All of my jobs have been more service-oriented, so you get to see things and see where needs are. It keeps the fire and fuel going to be involved,” says Susan.
Susan grew up in Old Saybrook and in her spare time Susan can be found enjoying the outdoors walking, kayaking, or building bird houses. Susan says what she enjoys about Old Saybrook is how the town tries to make it a welcoming community to all and how easy it is to view nature around town.
“I love telling people about nature and how it’s right here in their backyard,” says Susan.”