By JoAnn Jones
222So says Beverly Italiano of Poland about the activities of the Lizzies, a group of women associated with Fellows Riverside Gardens.
The Lizzies, named after Elizabeth Fellows, are all connected to Fellows, either as employees, volunteers or benefactors. What really connects the members of the group, however, is they all like to have fun.
“We’re different from the Friends of Fellows,” Italiano said. “We both support Fellows, but we’re more of a social group. The common denominator is that we have an interest in Fellows Riverside Gardens.”
The Lizzies, who have been together 10 years, began as the Red Hat Lizzies in 2003 but have since dropped that association.
“We didn’t benefit from the Red Hat association, so we dropped the name after a couple years,” said Italiano, who serves as president of the group. “We also started with members just 50 years and older, but we don’t do that anymore either.”
Italiano, who moved to Poland from Strongsville after retiring in 1998, has been employed as a receptionist at Fellows since it opened.
“Penny Johnson and I worked together at Fellows, and it was our idea to start a social group,” Italiano said. “Unfortunately, she died before the first meeting was held.”
“We have an activity every month,” said Carolyn Little of Austintown, the vice president of the group. “We’ve gone to Hartville, the MetroPlex Mystery Play, the YSU Planetarium. We’ve toured [Youngstown] City Hall. All the things we do are not garden- related.” Little is employed as a retail assistant in Fellows’ gift shop.
“Once we all sat and watched a Night Blooming Cereus,” Italiano said. “Some of the most simple things are the most fun.”
“We’ve gone to other gardens and had a swim party,” Italiano added. “We’ve even gone to see belly dancing because Carolyn’s daughter is a belly dancer.”
The group also visits area wineries, including Mastropietro in Berlin Center, and very recently, Gervasi in Canton.
“After all, grapes are a part of the earth,” said Italiano with a grin. “We support all natural things.”
Italiano said the Lizzies have had two very successful activities that were a lot of fun.
“We had a party at a member’s house,” she said, “where we did our make-up, did our nails, put on wigs, and used skin products. It made us feel better about ourselves.”
“Another time,” she added, “we asked everyone to bring something someone could use or that someone else would want. Everything was unwrapped, and we gave everybody play money — millions of dollars. Everyone had to describe what they brought, and the members bid on the items. They were acting as if it were real money. We had some very nice things to bid on.”
Each year the group has a picnic, paid for with the $12 per year dues the members pay. Italiano said Alice Sassone is the group’s scribe, who takes care of the money, sends out memos and puts photos on the computer for the group to see.
“With the dues we also publish things such as newsletters and photography,” Italiano said. “If someone in the group is ill, we send flowers. We just don’t raise funds.” With tongue in cheek, she did say she was urging the group to have a car wash.
Little said the group has 25 members, but a core of 12 come to all the activities.
“We have lunch — that’s always a big draw,” she said. “We do travel and try to do that during the good weather months. We’re going to Oglebay in November and staying overnight. We try to add culture to our activities.”
“We’re also going to the Roller Derby at the Covelli Center in September,” she added.
Italiano, who is a master gardener, said that many members of the group are, in fact, master gardeners and help out at different events.
“Anybody can join at any time they want,” she said. “Some learn about the group by word of mouth, others ask about it. We take anyone who meets the criteria [association with Fellows].
“It’s nice to get out once a month,” Little said. “Sometimes we do something different, like go to plays and things. We’ve even had game nights. We just let the imaginations go.”
“We have a meeting every October and set up activities for the year,” Italiano said. “We ask the members to suggest things.” The activity selection committee consists of Italiano, Little, Sassone, Marty Hartman, Jo Niles, Nena May and Diana Marquette.
“It’s mostly fun,” Italiano said. “We talk well about the gardens because we feel they belong to all of us. We’re spreading good will and camaraderie. We try very hard to have good will because we represent Fellows Riverside Gardens. Although everybody in the group is in their mid 50s to their 80s, we still have fun ... it’s not over yet.”