Kiwanis Comes Back

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Westbury chapter relaunches to help the community

The spirit of service in Westbury just got stronger. After a 10-year period of dormancy, the Westbury Kiwanis Club recently reactiviated in an effort to mentor local teens and help those in need.

Although they offer aid to anyone who needs it, Kiwanis’ primary mission is to help children.

“Kiwanis helps kids around the world,” its website states. “Local clubs look out for our communities and the international organization takes on large-scale challenges, such as fighting disease and poverty. We are generous with our time. We are creative with our ideas. We are passionate about making a difference. And we have fun along the way.”

According to Westbury Kiwanis president Cynthia Santass, the organization helps children through sending them to programs like Kamp Kiwanis, a wilderness camp for youth and individuals with disabilities, and contributing funds towards relief of pediatric Lyme Disease.
Kiwanis is part of a group of community service clubs organized by age collectively called “K-Family.” Other members of this “family” include K-Kids for elementary school students, Builders Club for middle school students, Key Club for high school students and Circle K for college students. It is not uncommon for members from different club levels to work together on service projects, as it creates an environment that is conducive to helping others.

“I think it’s nothing less than terrific,” said Westbury Kiwanis member Joel Harris. “It’s an opportunity to grow along with them and learn things from them, when you put these things together you get a dynamic group of people working for children and the community.”

The first of such joint projects, as well as Westbury Kiwanis’ first project, is a hurricane relief event on Oct. 1 where the Westbury Kiwanis and Key Club scheduled, created and distributed flyers, and solicited donations together outside of a local supermarket.
Since the Westbury Kiwanis has been inactive for some time, the Westbury High School Key Club has lacked this mentorship that Kiwanis provides, which is one of the primary reasons that the new club was founded.

“We were concerned that we had this Key Club at Westbury High School and they didn’t have any adult mentorship in town. I think that bringing the Kiwanis Club to Westbury is going to benefit the kids of the village,” said Kathy Levinson, lieutenant governor of the Long Island North Division of New York District Kiwanis and Westbury Kiwanis secretary.
The benefits of community service for the younger generation are invaluable as it builds life skills that they take with them for the rest of their lives.

“I think that it is important for them to be well-rounded,” said Santass. “I feel being involved with your community builds confidence in kids. They’re making a local difference.”

Since the club is still in its infancy, the hurricane relief event is the only project currently planned, but it intends to hold events similar to those hosted by other clubs in the area.

“The Kiwanis gets involved in things at the Ronald McDonald house, whether it’s baking and cooking for families, which of course benefits children,” said Levinson. “We’re involved in the Salvation Army and the Helen Keller Center…Whether it’s a community cleanup or helping at the Inn in Hempstead, these are the type of things we get involved in.”

Members relay that they feel a sense of community through working together towards a common goal.

“For me, the best thing is the other members who are involved as well. Everyone is committed to giving back to the community. It does require a lot of time, which I’m sure people have very little of, but to give a few hours a week to give back to the community is amazing,” said Santass. “Realize that you’re making a difference in someone’s life. It could make the biggest difference. It’s good to feel good about something.”

Looking towards the future, the club hopes to recruit more people and spread the word around about its mission.

“We work to engage members and volunteers. Once they see what we do, they generally want to be a part of the club,” said Harris. “It’s moving along very well. The membership is getting stronger and as we continue to get out on the street and ask for volunteers, people will see what we do and want to join us for doing it.”

Westbury Kiwanis holds its meetings every second and fourth Wednesday at the Harvest Diner in Westbury. For more information contact Sanatass at 516-641-8353.

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