Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park Lions Club hosts second annual tree lighting ceremony

Photos by Geeta Mohan Cheddie

Local elected officials joined the Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park Lions Club (RHSOP) for the group’s second annual tree lighting ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 6, officially launching the beginning of the holiday season in the community. 

As one of the hardest-hit communities this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lions erected a 20-foot-tall pine tree, even larger than last year, decorated with multicolored lights to symbolize the resilience and strength of the community. 

The tree will remain in place at the entrance of the bustling Little Guyana shopping district at 133rd Street and Liberty Avenue until Jan. 6 and will be lit from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The Lions thanked the NYPD’s 106th Precinct and Six Stars Auto Sales for providing electrical power for the duration of the lighting. 

“We’re blessed to call this neighborhood home. With this tree, we are showing that our businesses, working families and organizations are our strength and we are proving that we can stand up to any diversity by sticking together,” said Romeo Hitlall, president of the Lions Club. “Merry Christmas and stay safe.” 

Dozens of families attended the socially distanced event that began with a prayer invocation by Pastor Beeram of the Community Wesleyan Church, followed by DJ Speedy’s musical selection of popular Christmas songs from the U.S. and Caribbean.

District Leader Richard David, who is also a member of the Lions Club, said the community has much to celebrate, even as they reflect and cope with the losses they have faced this year. 

“This is a community that celebrates diversity. Just a few weeks ago, at this same spot, we celebrated Diwali and here we are celebrating Christmas,” David said. “This year, our community completed the Census, we voted in massive numbers and provided food and clothing during the height of COVID. We’re a resilient community, Merry Christmas, everyone.” 

Local elected officials such as Councilwoman Adrienne Adams, Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson and Kenichi Wilson, chair of Queens Community Board 9, joined the celebration.

President of RHSOP Romeo Hitlall, Councilwoman Adrienne Adams and Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson at the Lions Club’s second annual tree lighting ceremony.

Adams called for continued support of neighbors and expressed gratitude to the Lions Club, while in tears, noting the passing of her father during the pandemic. 

“At this time of the pandemic’s devastation, the spirit of Christmas will accelerate the healing, physical and emotional, in our society,” Adams said. 

Anderson said he’s proud to be a part of this year’s celebration and looks forward to working with everyone. 

“Happy holidays to our friends and neighbors. We must remain resilient in spite of COVID-19,” Anderson said. 

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