Originally appeared in South Dade News Leader | November 20, 2020 | Click here for original article.

Because of the numerous hurdles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have had to scale back their civic works, particularly activities designed to help kids.

But not the Kiwanis Club of Homestead-South (HomesteadKiwanis.org).

For more than 15 years, the Homestead-South Dade Kiwanis, one of South Florida’s most active community-service organizations, has conducted Story Time, a weekly reading program where members go to the Chapman Partnership and read to preschoolers.

Founded by Sharon Gold, then the Chapman Partnership’s Community Liaison, and Homestead-Kiwanis member Terri Stockwell, Story Time was immediately popular with students and teaches alike and lasted for years. For a short period, the program was inactive until revitalized in 2018 by then President Erica Avila and key members Angie Hryniuk, Arnold Perez and Stephen Booker. In addition to reading to four different classes, the Kiwanis members brought along a ‘treasure chest’ filled with toys, crayons, pencils and other items. Teachers from each class selected their best-behaved child to select gifts from the treasure chest.

And then the pandemic hit.

“Obviously, with school not in session, we had to temporarily suspend Story Time,” said Kiwanis member and local business owner Brandis Perez. “Now that at least some kids are back in school, we’ve started Story Time up again, this time virtually.”

So, each Friday morning at 9 a.m. members of the club, headed by Perez, get online and read to the children.

“In the past, this program showed kids that we care enough about them to take time to read and interact with them,” said club President Emily

Guzman, pointing out that the interaction also includes ‘theme’ days and even arts and crafts. “Now, more than ever, that’s important as we try and

instill some sort semblance of ‘normalcy’ for these kids.”

According to Amy O. Christopoulos, who is the Administrator of the Head Start program for Chapman Partnership Early Childhood Centers, the Kiwanis sessions with the kids has proved invaluable.

“What Kiwanis does for our community—and the children in our school—has been incredibly impactful,” said Christopoulos, a MDCPS

employee. “The fact that they started doing Story Time virtually as students began returning shows their dedication to the children of the Homestead-South Dade area.”

For more information the various activities of the Kiwanis Club of Homestead-South or to participate in one of their community-service projects, visit HomesteadKiwanis.org or contact Guzman at (786) 399-4161.