Full circle

A family once helped by Kiwanians pays it forward after a fire.

By Rich Pollack, Delray Beach Kiwanis Club

When the Delray Beach Kiwanis Club in Florida learned that a mother and her five children had to flee their home after a fire in a nearby apartment, members sprang into action. Little did the Kiwanians know at the time that they would also be helping a second Delray Beach family pay forward a good deed done by club members decades earlier. 

Members discovered that a couple of the families displaced by the blaze had children attending Orchard View Elementary School, which the club had “adopted” years before. Working with the school’s principal — fellow Kiwanian Danielle Garcia —members withdrew US$300 from the club treasury to buy clothing and other items for the family members, who were temporarily staying with relatives.

When the Jenkins family was able to move back into its apartment, club members Ezra Krieg and Peggy Kelleher reached out to the community through Facebook and email to ask for donations of clothing, furniture and furnishings. 

 “The response was amazing,” says Kelleher, who helped coordinate the effort. “I received at least 50 calls and emails from people wanting to know how they could help.”

While all contributions were well received and greatly appreciated, the donation from Laurie Zuniga and her husband, Frank, really stood out. 

A few weeks earlier, the Zunigas were in the process of clearing out their daughter Jackie’s nearby apartment following her death from COVID-related pneumonia when Laurie saw the Kiwanis posting on Facebook. 

While she was on the phone with Kelleher, Zuniga discovered the Delray Beach Kiwanis Club had helped her struggling family in the early 1990s by paying their electric bill for several months while Jackie was recovering from a kidney transplant that had drained the family’s savings. 

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Zuniga says. “I thought what a blessing, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Now another family could have Jackie’s furniture. I was thrilled, because we could pay it forward through the same organization that helped us out years ago.” 

Early in February, a small army of volunteers led by Kiwanians loaded many of the items from the apartment — including two beds, a dining room table with chairs and several other items —  onto a trailer provided by Exhilaride Golf Cart Rentals and delivered them to Elethia Jenkins and her family.

“My husband and I are so happy that something beautiful came from such devastating tragedies,” Laurie Zuniga says. “We feel heaven definitely played a part in bringing together all those involved. Just like the person who so selflessly donated their kidney to help our daughter, it is so comforting to know that, through Jackie, we could be of help to another family. We wish them many blessings.” 

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