Five Towns Kiwanis marks 80 years

Charitable group supports students with scholarships


For eight decades, the Kiwanis Club of the Five Towns has been an active community service organization, helping to support college students, hospitalized children, police officers and breast cancer survivors.

The club, established in 1944, celebrated its 80th anniversary at the organization’s regular meeting place, Frank’s Steaks in Rockville Centre, on March 21.

Charitable donations are always on the club’s front burner, donating tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships to students, as well as aiding with senior citizen projects, and supporting the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Center Foundation, a program at Cohen Children’s Medical Center and Stony Brook University Hospital, a level 1 trauma center.

“The whole meaning of the Kiwanis is the charitable affairs, helping people by supporting different charities in the community,” Ronnie Lanzilotta, a club member since 1960, said.

Even throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the group held meetings via Zoom to stay in touch with its membership and sent scholarship money through the mail to recipients. Since the club wasn’t able to host any in-person events, the organization still made sure to give back to those in need, including supporting food pantries, handing out scholarships, as well as aiding senior centers, the Five Towns Community Center in Lawrence and the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC in Cedarhurst.

“Even through Covid, we did not miss a beat,” Dr. Fred Seltzer, the club’s secretary and a 43-year member, said. “We gave out our scholarships. We still gave out the money that we planned to do, even though it was a little tough for those two years.”

Syd Mandelbaum, a past president and a club member since 1980, said, “One of the great things our club is known for is scholarship night. We give scholarships out to deserving students… For the last 80 years, we’ve given out nearly a million dollars in scholarships to the students in the Five Towns.”

Seltzer, who is also a five times past president and a past lt. governor of the club, said he holds a positive outlook for the future of the group.

“We think it’s very bright because we are bringing in young, new members, which is important,” he said. “Youth is the lifeblood of any organization.”

The Kiwanis Club has a presence at Woodmere Middle School, under The Builders Club, at Lawrence High School, under Key Club, and in colleges on Long Island and New York with Circle K. All the money that is raised goes back to the community and those in need. Whenever the club is approached about a need in the community or any issues, members will try to provide support and help wherever possible, they said.

Since celebrating its 75th anniversary, the club has seen an influx of female members.

“We have a lot more women,” Mandelbaum, who is also Key Club adviser at Lawrence, said. “We had only one woman five years ago. We now have three or four.”

Even though the organization’s contributions to the community are widely known, in certain situations members of Kiwanis have quietly helped those in need to safeguard their dignity, including sending meals to members who have had a death in their family.

“One of the things that we’re really proud of is our ability to stay relevant, and that we have a board that listens to the needs of the community,” Mandelbaum added. “And we would love to have more members, male and female.”

Kiwanis Club of the Five Towns is 80 years old, and Kiwanis International is a century old, and along with its longevity, the organization’s strength is the mission to help the community at large.

“Even though we’re an international organization going back 100 years, the money stays local and that’s one of the uniqueness of the Kiwanis program,” Seltzer said.

Upcoming events for the local Kiwanis include hosting its 34th annual model Seder, where all are welcome to learn about the Jewish holiday of Passover, at Lido Kosher Deli in Long Beach on April 11; and its 51st annual golf outing on Aug. 5, when David Friedman, president of the Hewlett-Woodmere Business Association, will be honored.