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Oceanside Kiwanis takes step toward normalcy

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The Oceanside Kiwanis Club took a step toward normalcy on April 19 when it hosted its largest in-person meeting since the pandemic started and set goals to help children in the community in the future.

A resurgent number of Kiwanis Club volunteers gathered for the Long Island Southwest Division’s annual visit from District Gov. Brenda Leigh Johnson at Alias Smith & Jones in Oceanside. It was a major event for the club, which prides itself on in-person volunteer work with children around the globe.

Johnson met with the local presidents and secretaries before sitting in on the divisional meeting, where officials discussed future plans for post-pandemic child outreach, among other projects.

Long Island Southwest Division Lt. Gov. Seth Blau said he was excited to see an increased turnout for the division’s meeting, which saw about 60 members turn out to greet the governor. The club is also seeking to help children in the area and will foster future fundraisers with that in mind.

“It did a lot to get people out,” Blau said. “It definitely helps reinvigorate and get people thinking about returning to their activities and being able to give back to the children in their communities.”

Blau has been a part of the division since 2009, working in several roles, including president, first vice president, and second vice president. The division is made up 10 clubs overseen by Blau.

The in-person nature of the meeting gave a personal touch, according to Blau, that had been lacking from the virtual meetings. Previous divisional meetings during the pandemic tended to see closer to 30 or 35 volunteers attend, and Blau said he believed numbers would increase.

“I think we’re definitely heading in that direction,” Blau said. “I think our meeting last week was a good indication of that.”

For many volunteers, this was the first in-person event they have had in months. “It definitely was a big boost to morale,” Blau said. Doubling the usual event turnout can serve as an indicator that the club is on track to resume certain normal operations. Blau said he hopes the governor’s meeting will spur volunteer membership ahead of the club’s membership month in May.

“I think it’s an amazing organization and people volunteer in their extremely busy schedules,” Oceanside Kiwanis Club member Joseph Ponte said. The Oceanside club was recently recognized by the state organization for helping distribute meals for emergency workers. The division has worked through the pandemic, adapting with events like a virtual bingo night to benefit East Rockaway students.

Ahead for the busy Oceanside club is a May 20 breakfast at the IHOP on Long Beach Road, which the club partnered with the Jewish War Veterans to organize.

Johnson said she was proud of the work that the Southwest Division has continued to do through the pandemic. In addition to her, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin and Councilman Anthony D’Esposito attended the meeting. Johnson noted that the Oceanside meeting was the largest she had attended for some time.

“To hear about everything that they were able to do, the things that could do, not the things they couldn’t do during Covid, was just amazing,” she said. “It was fantastic to actually meet in person. It gave me a lot of hope for us coming out of Covid.”