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In the Pipeline: Kiwanis holds the key

December 07, 2011|By Chris Epting
  • Nouha Hreish shops with two children at the Kiwanis' Clothe The Children event.
Nouha Hreish shops with two children at the Kiwanis'… (HB Independent )

One hundred thirty-five kids, at least as many volunteers, parents, workers — they all needed to be wrangled into some sort of order. So Nouha Hreish, who with her late husband Albert has run Noal Jewelry Designs for 30 years on Edinger Avenue, grabbed the bullhorn.

With a big smile, she directed children and volunteers into their proper places, and the fun began.

The scene was Wal-Mart on Beach Boulevard and Talbert Avenue last Saturday on a clear, cool, breezy and early morning — about 6:30 a.m. For about 25 years, the Kiwanis Club of Huntington Beach has sponsored its Clothe the Children event, where local children in need are allowed to shop for themselves during the holiday season.

Hreish has helped run the event for 15 years, and in the midst of juggling at least a dozen things on this morning, she happily took some time to describe what it is all about.

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"Kiwanis is about serving the needy children of the world," she told me, "and so we allow these local kids to come in to Wal-Mart with a $100 gift card. They are escorted by a Kiwanis volunteer, often a teenage Kiwanis Key Club member, and they get to spend about $90 on clothes, shoes and other necessities. Then they can buy a gift for themselves or a loved one with the remaining money."

This year, First Christian Church donated $2,500 and Wal-Mart contributed $1,000 (in addition to facilitating the vent), not to mention dozens of smaller donations from local citizens, which all went to cover the gift cards for the 135 kids.

During the shopping spree, parents wait outside the store, which gives the kids a chance for a little independence and responsibility.

Mike Grumet, who has been president of the HB Kiwanis since October, told me they find the kids through a network of five local schools and agencies including Project Self-Sufficiency and Colette's Children's Home. He also said that this event has come to define the main mission of the Kiwanis Club.

"For our organization, children are priority one," he said. "Serving one child, one community at a time, that's what Kiwanis International is all about. So this event is our poster child."

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