Expanding Kiwanis in Queens
by Heather Senison
Nov 16, 2011 | 3330 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Queens Kiwanis Lieutenant Governor Michael Terry has a plan to expand young people’s community service clubs beyond the borders of school walls.

Founded in 1915, according to its Web site, Kiwanis International is a nonprofit organization devoted to fighting challenges facing the world’s children and teaching them how to do the same for the next generation.

“I came to a couple of Kiwanis meetings and found out all the stuff they do, particularly with youth, and that appealed to me a lot,” Terry said in a recent interview regarding why he joined the organization 14 years ago.

Kiwanis International is broken down into districts, such as New York State, which are each led by a governor. The New York district has 20 divisions, each with a lieutenant governor, he said. The divisions, such as Western Queens or Brooklyn, are divided into clubs.

Each group takes on causes, he said. For example, Kiwanis International is currently working on Project Eliminate to rid the world of neo-natal Tetanus. Among the projects the New York Kiwanis clubs focus on is sending disadvantaged kids for a week to their sleep-away camp upstate.

Club members canvass schools and charities looking for kids to send to Camp Kiwanis, for which they pay $500 per camper. Last summer, Terry said, Maspeth sent 14.

“And this year we discovered that there were a lot of military kids whose parents might be off in Iraq and Afghanistan or somewhere like that,” he said, “and the kids are kind of footloose and free.

“So we sent a lot of military kids to Camp Kiwanis this year,” Terry said.

Currently, most kids join Kiwanis youth clubs in school. K-Kids is for those between the ages of six and 12, followed by the Builder’s Club in middle school. Local Kiwanis Clubs provide them with resources and funding to do community service around their schools, such as hosting coat drives and cleaning up their schoolyards.

High school students can join the Key Club, which Terry said superseded the Kiwanis Club membership by 20,000 internationally last year. The Key Club has the same structure as Kiwanis International, with division governors and district lieutenant governors. He said there are so many Key Club members in Western Queens that the district has two lieutenant governors.

Then there is Circle-K for college students.

Terry said a main aspect of the school clubs is teaching students about volunteer work.

“We like to think that we’re going to build kids into good citizens,” Terry said. “The idea is that we want to teach kids to be good citizens, number one, and to also give back to the community so it’s not always take, take, take.”

For example “the Key Clubbers are into this Project Eliminate like you can’t believe,” he said. “They’re raising tons of money.”

Twice a year, Key Club members in New York can attend leadership seminars upstate to learn how to organize and lead a club, he said.

Along with retaining and gaining membership in existing clubs, Terry has two goals he wants to meet in Queens.

The first is to develop community Key Clubs, like the first one established last year in Sunnyside, so those who go to school in other boroughs can participate in a club close to home.

The second is to start a Young Professionals Club, he said, for young adults out of college.

“It’s a club that can meet for networking. It can meet anywhere in the borough,” or on the Internet, Terry said. “The idea is that you bring in younger people who don’t want to sit down with their fathers at a Kiwanis Club, but who want to do service.”

But the most important thing to Terry is that people continue to give back to their community in one way or another.

“You can do it financially, you can do it through actual community service," he said. "There’s all kind of things you can do.”

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