Volunteer Corner: Local Kiwanis helping students succeed

 John Stieve, at left, and Mark Heltemes of the Green Valley/Sahuarita Kiwanis believe their community doesn’t get better unless people are willing to pitch in and make it happen.

Service groups, much like churches and country clubs, are losing numbers. The days when people worked 9 to 5 and then headed to the lodge or hall for an evening meeting are almost gone. Each new generation is tied more and more to technology, moving from job to job, city to city, juggling a plethora of family activities with career commitments that have no definitive schedule, which often leaves them struggling to free up time.

Are service clubs, like land lines and road atlases, becoming obsolete, and what does it mean for this community?

John Stieve, president, and Mark Heltemes, secretary, of the Green Valley/Sahuarita Kiwanis understand those challenges, but still believe we shouldn’t take our civic responsibility or our sense of community for granted.

“Service clubs get things done,” Heltemes put it. A local insurance agent, he is committed to setting a critically good example for youngsters, a major focus for Kiwanis around the world.

“I also stay with it because I have made friends, and I like the things we do,” he noted.

With more than a half-million members in 80 countries, Kiwanis co-ed groups choose their own projects based on what they see as their community’s needs.

The GV/Sahuarita Kiwanis have five major focuses, all geared toward helping young people get a jump start on their futures. Choices is a unique program at Continental School that promotes school attendance and the connection between education and a productive life.

“Everything is designed to keep the students involved,” Heltemes said.

Their Builders Club helps middle school kids learn organization skills and leadership.

“We try to answer what it means to be a leader and to serve,” Stieve explained.

Members meet regularly with the kids, fostering a group identity. They have their own T-shirts. Kiwanis members actively mentor the students to organize charity projects of their own choice.

“Our being there for them is key,” Stieve said, “so they know we support them.”

Kiwanis raises money for the graduates of the two Sahuarita high schools, handing out about $20,000 in scholarships in 2019. They interview the kids in partnership with school staff members, and look to reward leaders. They currently fund ongoing costs for students attending universities, community colleges, and vocational technical schools.

Green Valley/Sahuarita Kiwanis recognizes students of the month at both local high schools, provides tuition assistance to parents of Los Niños del Valle students, and supports U of A’s Circle K International, the largest collegiate service organization in the world. In addition, they partner with AKTION CLUB, a part of Kiwanis that helps find employment opportunities for adults with disabilities.

Whether it’s helping young people learn how to connect with adults and each other in more meaningful and productive ways, teaching them how to become leaders, or simply being there when they can use a guiding hand, Kiwanis men and women are still serving. They believe their community doesn’t get better unless people are willing to pitch in and make it happen.

No question that service clubs face the challenges of recruiting and keeping members in a rapidly changing electronic world, but the benefits to all of us in this society cannot be ignored.

Contact the Green Valley-Sahuarita Volunteer Clearinghouse at its website: gvsvolunteering.org

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