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Queens Kiwanis charter first-ever club for disabled

This week, Queens West Kiwanis will welcome a brand new club to the division.

For the first time in Kiwanis International history, the club is made up of 16 members who are diagnosed with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

The club, Kiwanis Club of Sharing Hearts/Queens West, will be a true Kiwanis club as opposed to an Aktion club, which is a service leadership program that supports people with disabilities.

Carol Verdi, lieutenant governor of Queens Kiwanis West and executive vice president of education services at HeartShare, said that the idea came to fruition at a training session with New York Kiwanis Governor James Mancuso.

“He told us to try and find some new clubs and think outside the box. I’ve been working with the developmentally disabled for my entire professional career, and I thought we should start a Kiwanis club with our guys who are adults,” Verdi said.

“Everyone at HeartShare was on board with it, and I’m very proud of them,” she continued. “They will be as active as a regular club, and there are many clubs in the West Division that said they will support them with anything they need to be successful.”

The club welcomes 17 members: Kevin Facey, president; Larry Ottley, treasurer; Michael Cyrus, secretary; Sofia Ghale, Marilyn Barros, Michael Jones, Brianne Sheridan, Manuel Hazoury, Mariam Abdallah, Mathew Koshi, James Cutright, Joanna Norris-Boyd, Dowlat Sukhram, Paula Samaroo, Aletha Capers, Nicholas Palmeri and Feliz Cruz.

The charter date is April 1, where there will be a luncheon at 11 a.m. inside the Hyatt Regency JFK Airport at Resorts World to celebrate the newest addition to the Queens West Kiwanis family.

Verdi, who’s been involved with the Kiwanis since 1986, is no stranger to being isolated from the organization because of her identity.

She could not become a formal member of the Kiwanis club until about 24 years ago because they did not allow women to join, so she takes pride in seeing another “first” for the organization today.

“Oftentimes in our society, people with developmental disabilities are looked down upon because of their ability. People think they can’t do what others do, and I think showing the community and the greater Kiwanis family that they can be successful and they can do just what we do,” Verdi said. “For example, the treasurer may need some help doing math, and the secretary may need help with spelling, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t capable. And I think that taking this step, especially for our division, is showing everyone that our guys can function in the real world just like the rest of us.”

MidVille Kiwanis hosts 10th Annual Food Drive

Last week, the Kiwanis Club of Middle Village distributed food baskets to the community ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“The Middle Village Kiwanis has delivered food to over 1,000 families over the last 10 years, sticking to its core mission of helping one person and one family at a time and giving people something to smile about,” said Alphonse Gentile, a senior vice president at Cross County Savings Bank and event coordinator of the food drive.
The 10th annual food drive was held at a Cross County branch at 80-10 Eliot Avenue. Recipients of this year’s drive included United Methodist Church and St. Margaret Catholic Church, both in Middle Village, Notre Dame Catholic Academy in Ridgewood, and Saints Joachim & Anne Church and Little Sisters of the Poor in Queens Village.
“Everyone should be able to celebrate the holidays with their loved ones, even when times are tough,” said J. Nicolois, who sits on the club’s Fundraising Committee. “Middle Village Kiwanis takes pride in collecting and distributing food for the holiday season.”

Glendale Kiwanis welcome club governor

On August 29, the Queens West Division of Kiwanis International held a dinner at the West Side Tennis Club hosting Kiwanis International New York State Governor Brenda Leigh Johnson, the granddaughter of the late Dale Carnegie.
The Queens West Division consists of 17 Kiwanis Clubs, and guests consisted primarily of members of the Forest Hills and Glendale clubs.
Missouri native Dale Carnegie, who passed away in 1955, lived at 27 Wendover Road, a charming 1920 Forest Hills Gardens house.
He was a lecturer and writer who developed courses in public speaking, self-improvement, corporate training, and salesmanship. “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” published in 1936, is his signature book.
An underlying theme of his work was the potential for changing other people’s behavior by changing one’s behavior towards them. He founded the Dale Carnegie Institute in 1912, which today operates as a business training firm with over 200 locations in over 85 countries.
“Leadership is not something that we are born with, it’s a skill that needs to be practiced often,” Johnson, who founded the Long Island Alzheimer’s Association, told the crowd. “Leadership is not a job title, it is a way of thinking and we are all leaders in some way. Every day we make decisions, small or large, that affect people around us.”
Johnson’s mother Rosemary was Carnegie’s stepdaughter.
“Although I have no memories of Dale, he is alive through his books, letters, and photos, and I think he was a most humble man who loved Forest Hills and embraced all it had to offer,” said Johnson.
Carnegie enjoyed tending to rose gardens down the street from his Wendover home.
“As a child, it was a special place to walk to and was filled with varieties of roses,” she said.
Although the Wendover property was sold in the late 1960s, Johnson recalls visiting it often.
“There were always cocktail parties and lots of fun and laughter,” she said. “For Christmas dinner, there were lots of toasts and cheers.”
Her grandma added a sun room and maintained a home office overlooking a back garden.
“There seemed to be a robin singing every time I would go in there,” Johnson said. “It was filled with books and a couple of easy chairs, making creative thought something that was easy to do.”
Johnson began working for Dale Carnegie & Associates while in high school.
“I knew from the time I was a young child that I wanted to work for the family business,” she said. “During my breaks and after work, I would pour over files. I helped my sister-in-law create a room for the archives to be enjoyed by visitors.”
Today the international headquarters is in Melville.
“I created ‘Dale’s office,’ as if Dale just stepped away for a few minutes,” she said. “His desk, books, favorite pictures and, of course, the original manuscript, of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ is there.”
Eleven years ago, Lieutenant Governor Kerrie Hansen was inducted into the Kiwanis Club of Glendale, along with her husband Steve, eventually serving as president before being elevated to her current position.
“Our Kiwanis family offered opportunities to do service and enjoy fellowship,” she said. “I found a global family, who wished to improve the world one child and one community at a time.”
Hansen called Johnson a hands-on governor and amazing leader, mentor, and navigator who traveled statewide during a very complicated time of the pandemic.
“She is akin to the Dale Carnegie legacy, but also as a leader teaching people how to use their skills to make their reach more powerful and impactful,” she said. “Even during challenging times, our 17 clubs commit their service, make generous donations, and fundraise for their communities.
“It may not have been in the traditional ways we accomplished these achievements, but each club, which has a different personality and spirit, succeeded with some creative thinking,” Hansen added.

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