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South County Beat: The A.G. Kiwanis do a lot of good

It was Melodrama Day on Dec. 7 for seniors living in care centers in the South County. After being transported to the Melodrama Holiday Extravaganza show in Oceano, they got to enjoy the program with free popcorn and a soft drink.

Victor Devens, vice president of the Arroyo Grande Valley Kiwanis, helped transport the seniors, as did other members of his Kiwanis club. This service has been going on for 34 years and began when the club members searched for a way they could serve seniors. In 1978, then-member John Schlenker, owner and founder of the Melodrama, offered to treat the seniors to a show.

Kiwanis offered transportation as well as a big cleanup at the end of the holiday season when the actors take a break. Called The Strike, the cleanup takes place Jan. 2. Kiwanis members go in, put everything in storage and clean up the hall.

Maureen and Jared Sharon are also members of the A.G. Kiwanis (women have been members for 25 years). “I can say with certainty that this event brightens the holidays in a very unique way for seniors, who often experience depression and loneliness, as Christmas brings to mind many people who are no longer alive,” wrote Maureen in an email. “The Melodrama also gives a delightful change of pace for many of the caregivers who give so much of themselves to the seniors each and every day. We are grateful to management and performers at the Melodrama, who make this program possible year after year.”

The local care facilities select patrons who are well and able to enjoy the show. This year there were approximately 137 seniors; others were ill and unable to make it. The Kiwanis club rents four buses from Ride-On, and many members use their own vehicles to transport the rest.

The Melodrama provides the whole program free to the seniors, as well as popcorn and a soft drink. The Kiwanis give the seniors a small stuffed animal as they leave.

Devens, a civil engineer in his day job, and father of two small children, has been a member of the A.G. Kiwanis for four and half years. Three of his co-workers were Kiwanis and invited him to join. They told him of projects they do for children and seniors, which helped convince him to join, as his wife was pregnant with their first child.

“It’s been a great experience,” he said. A recent project he introduced to the club, after attending an annual meeting in Las Vegas, is making dolls for ailing children or children of ailing parents at Arroyo Grande Hospital. The doll kit comes with a blanket and markers to draw on the dolls.

Other local Kiwanis projects include: giving scholarships to students at Lopez High School and to young college women majoring in the arts; adopt-a-highway cleanup; providing poinsettias for shut-in seniors; providing for families in need for the holidays and various work projects.

The A.G. Kiwanis meets each Thursday at 7 a.m. at the Quarterdeck restaurant in A.G. For more information, contact Devens at

Gayle Cuddy and Cynthia Lambert write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays.