The Kiwanis Club of Homestead-South Dade (, one of South Florida’s most active community service organizations, has kept up a nearly 20-year-old tradition—despite the COVID-19 pandemic—by visiting a variety of South Dade facilities serving many with disabled children and

distributing stuffed animals to nearly 1,200 kids.

“In this time of uncertainty, this time of COVID, we wanted to let these children know that some things don’t change; that Christmas time is meant to be fun and joyous,” said Homestead Councilwoman Erica G. Ávila, current Lt. Governor for District 26 of the Florida District of Kiwanis. “Through collaboration with our community partners, this helps provide a sense of

normalcy, which we all need now.”

Kiwanis members, including a ‘traveling’ Santa, visited a wide variety of daycare facilities, distributing toys and stuffed animals, keeping up a club

tradition that began in 2001 with a visit to The ARC of South Florida and now spans the globe.

At that first visit the club’s original Santa, Charles ‘Chuck’ Gugliuzza—past Kiwanis International Trustee — distributed 50 gifts to those residents with

intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since that time, Gugliuzza and his wife Emila, also known as Mrs. Claus, have visited kids throughout Florida, Latin America, Africa and the Philippines. Last year, through the generosity of the Gugliuzzas, more than 20,000 gifts and toys were distributed.

This year, with Gugliuzza sidelined because of the pandemic, Alberto Carrasco donned the Santa outfit - donated to Kiwanis by Rotary Club of Homestead member Phil Marraccini- as the Kiwanis members visited ARC Project Thrive 4 and 5, two ACE Academies, a debut on Councilwoman Jenifer Bailey’s Artwalk

production and visited with the VIP/AYSO soccer children and adults with disabilities.

A visit to PATCHS PPEC was done as a joint community service project with Rotary member Marraccini serving as Santa.

Stuffed animals were provided for Redondo Elementary students (with members of the Coral Gables and Miami Kiwanis clubs joining in), families in the Love In Action program and the GFWC Women’s Club of Homestead (for a drive-through toy distribution).

The final event of the Kiwanis Club’s season of giving will be at a socially-distanced Three Kings Celebration, January 2, at the Women’s Club.

Tickets to the 5 p.m. event featuring Homestead Mayor Steven D. Losner as Santa, are $10 (kids 12 and under free) and are still available by

contacting Women’s Club Treasurer Flor Arzuaga at (786) 367-0949.

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