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Kiwanis give back to the community
September 4, 2019

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Generosity from the community, as well as sales from the Kiwanis Thrift Store, has provided the Kiwanis Club of Lehigh Acres with the opportunity to donate a great deal of money back into the community.

Executive Director of the Kiwanis Club of Lehigh Acres Foundation Damon Shelor said the Thrift Store helps the organization fund numerous projects in the community, state and through international outlets.

Many of those donations are providing assistance to the youth of the community, one of which is scholarships, a commitment of roughly $280,000 over the next four years.

"We have a couple four year deals, two year deals and a bunch of one year deals," he said. "As long as they meet the parameters, 12 credit hours in a semester and a 2.5 GPA, we will renew that scholarship in most cases for a four year degree."

On an annual basis, the Kiwanis Club of Lehigh Acres commits about $88,000 for scholarships.

"We keep track of what that commitment is and we adjust the number of scholarships we give based on our availability," Shelor said. "Our scholarships do not cover the full cost of attending a college."

In addition to the scholarships, the Kiwanis Club of Lehigh Acres also contributes another $40,000 in youth programs through the Kiwanis Clubs at elementary, middle and high school.

"The Key Club is at the high school level. We have similar clubs at each level of the educational system. We sponsor about eight of the clubs in the area schools," he said.

They also donate money to the schools for athletic, arts, dance and band programs.

Shelor said it is also important for them to donate money to youth soccer, Little League baseball and Pop Warner football.

The money raised through the Kiwanis Club of Lehigh Acres Thrift Store also supports United Way, Lehigh Community Services and the Department of Children and Families.

"We work with the schools. If the kids don't have enough clothing, or proper clothing, they will call and ask if we have school uniforms," he said, adding that if they do have anything in stock they will donate the items to the school, as well as supplies when they have them.

"We are not staffed to evaluate someone's needs. We rely on other social service organizations to screen, or clear people's needs. (If) they are qualified for programs, they call us to see if we have those items," Shelor said.

Some of those circumstances may include providing items for a family in need, such as a sofa, tables and chairs and lamps through the social service agencies.

"It depends on what we have in inventory," he said, which is approximately $30,000 of donated goods for needy families.

The Kiwanis Club also supports Healthy Harvest Gardens, a nonprofit located at Mirror Lakes Golf Course who has an educational mission of teaching people how to be more sustainable at home in regards to growing vegetables in their backyard.

"We contribute to them and send people down there to help work," Shelor said.

Sweat equity is also provided to the Community Children's Center of Southwest Florida in terms of planting some vegetation and sprucing up the property, as well as work at the Boys and Girls Club.

The Lehigh Acres club also contributes funding to the International Eliminate Project, which helps protect mothers and babies from tetanus. He said it is a five-year project that is trying to eliminate terminal neonatal tetanus.

"Ninety-five percent of what we generate goes back into the local community," Shelor said, adding that the remaining 5 percent goes to international donations through the Kiwanis Club.

The Kiwanis Thrift Store, at 15 Homestead Road South, is 12,000 square feet.

"We started construction of the building in 1990. We have been here for 29 years. We have added on the building, three major additions to the building since we started it," he said. "We think we have good items at reasonable prices. We work very hard on having a clean store."

As far as affordability, Shelor said 90 percent of what they have is priced under $5.

For more information call 239-369-6336. The Thrift Store is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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