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Kiwanis Club's Debut Event 'Shares the Love' With Community

Susana Fernandez

Thursday, April 3, 2014 • 9:30am

MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn Kiwanis Club and Millburn High School Key Club participated in the  "Share the Love" event at Regal Bank on Millburn Avenue on March 20.  The event was the new club's first formal effort to solidify its place in the community and attract new members. The Kiwanis Club was formed last fall after the MHS Key Club took steps to create what most of its peer clubs have at other schools: an adult-led partner organization to help drive community service projects.

Musical tributes to the late Millburn High School senior Charles Zhang highlighted the community gathering, an event aimed at creating awareness of the group's child-focused mission and ties to the school's Key Club. Junior Leonard Santos, a friend of Zhang and active member the high school's music and theater programs, served as master of ceremonies during the entertainment portion of the Kiwanis's "Share the Love" event at Regal Bank on Millburn Avenue. 

In addition to Santos, the student-led entertainment included solos and duos featuring Samuel Dantowitz; Elizabeth Gray; Lily Jacobs; Jessi Stier, Alec Gevarter, Ethan Sternstein and Anya Parker-Lentz. The high school's acapella group, Soulfedge, performed as well. Yuri Resetovs, who manages the new Music & Arts store on Millburn Avenue, provided audio equipment and assistance.

Addressing the crowd, Millburn Mayor Robert Tillotson spoke of Zhang's passing and noted the pressure that many local students feel in their teenage years.

Millburn High School faculty sponsors Neil Cooperman and Bridgette Nevola announced that Key Club was extending a loan to the Kiwanis Club to keep it going while it finds its feet.  Kiwanis club president Michael Birnberg accepted the $500 loan, and he and Mr. Cooperman spoke of the importance of Key Clubs having adult-organization partners to assist with complex charitable efforts.

The Key Club has entered a statewide competition for a "Kiwanis Family Relations" award and will hear news at the annual New Jersey Key Club District Convention in Long Branch. The competition entry included articles, pictures, letters and flyers highlighting the growth of the Millburn-Short Hills Kiwanis Club and the Key Club's involvement and support of it.

Mrs. Nevola added, "The Key Club received an award from the Community Foodbank of New Jersey for a recent food drive. Kiwanis members assisted Key Club with the housing and delivery of food collection during this drive. This was truly a community effort."

Later, Santos said, "It all feels surreal, you know? I expect to wake up tomorrow and see him in the hallways and take a deep breath when I realize that it was all a dream. But it's not. This nightmare has become our new reality. There's always going to be a part of all of us that wishes that we could've just said those few words, could've given him that little support that he needed. Now, all we can do is try to live for Charles and everything he stood for."

Santos capped the evening by performing a song that he wrote after hearing of his friend's tragic passing. "If I went back in time, could I be your hero?" was one of the song's refrains.

To get involved with Kiwanis Club and its community service activities focusing on children's issues, please contact millburnkiwanis@gmail.com.

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