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Service club celebrates connection with Arlington non-profits

Kiwanis Club has long tradition of supporting youth in community.
Members of the Kiwanis Club of Arlington who have received honors from Kiwanis International are shown with guest speakers following the club's annual holiday gathering on Dec. 13 at Washington Golf & Country Club.

The symbiotic relationships between Arlington’s community-service organizations and its social-safety-net providers were on display Dec. 13, as the Kiwanis Club of Arlington hosted many of its grant recipients at the club’s annual holiday luncheon.

“Our club has focused on helping the lives of children and youth in this county since 1931. We share this critically important mission with many non-profits,” Kiwanis Club president Linda Chandler said at the event, held at Washington Golf & Country Club.

Representatives from a host of organizations that share in more than $60,000 in annual Kiwanis Club of Arlington grants were on hand to engage in two-way conversation.

The gathering was a chance to “share laughter, share food, share the spirit of the season,” said Rev. Gabriel Muteru, chaplain at Marymount University, who delivered an invocation.

Service organizations like Kiwanis “have seen the need that exists . . . and speak out for the children and the youth,” Muteru said.

One direct way the Kiwanis Club has made a difference over decades has been its support of what is now known as the Alternatives for Parenting Teens (APT) Infant Center, run by Arlington Public Schools.

Among those aided was Clara Maria Gudiel, who was able to use Kiwanis scholarship funds to attend Northern Virginia Community College and then George Mason University, where she anticipates earning a bachelor’s degree before working toward a master’s degree in early-childhood education.

Part of a family of 13 siblings from Guatemala, Gudiel graduated from high school in 2017, three years after the birth of her first son. “Your scholarship helped me go to college – that was the push I needed,” she said at the event.

Support for teen parents was the brainchild of the late Bill Cochran, a longtime Arlington Public Schools educator and later in life a Kiwanis Club member.

The support has been invaluable, said Yvonne Tonne Pettiford, infant-care coordinator and a 32-year staff member of the county school system.

“You are touching lives that will be a lifetime memory – forever remembered by those you give it to,” she said.

Kim Thompson, lieutenant governor of the district in which the Kiwanis Club of Arlington is located, said it was “so fun” to see the work being done by member organizations.

“Coming to events like this lets me see even more the impact of clubs like Arlington,” she said. “There’s magic in Kiwanis.”

Even if not entirely in the realm of the supernatural, club members “try to make it a better place for all of us in the community,” said club member Edd Nolen.