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Family affairs

Jul 24, 2014

Dara & her sponsor
When it comes to attracting fresh faces, few are as dedicated as Richard Leyden. Current membership committee chair (and past president) of the Kiwanis Club of Northridge (California), he's brought in ten new members this year alone, and many more over the course of his nearly 40-year Kiwanis tenure.

But that doesn't mean this seasoned expert can't pick up new tricks. For instance, he recently learned that when pursuing potential candidates, it pays to consider their kids, too.

"Remember that older people have children," says Leyden, 73.

He reached this epiphany during his multi-year courtship of Pasadena attorney and personal friend Richard Moss. Unfortunately the busy lawyer's schedule is too packed for him to participate in Kiwanis. Not that this discouraged Leyden. People with a lot on their plates are the very folks he covets.

"I always ask my doctor, my dentist, people like that," he says. "They're always very busy, but that's what we want. I've never found a good member who has all the time in the world."

In this case his efforts yielded an unexpected dividend. When his attorney friend's daughter, 30-year-old Dara Moss, returned from an extended stay in Australia in 2011, she noticed Leyden's pursuit of her father and expressed her own interest. Leyden invited the former Circle K and Key Club member to a meeting, and she signed up shortly thereafter.

"He wanted my dad to join, but he ended up with me instead," Moss says.

Leyden is more than happy with the way things turned out, because Moss has singlehandedly pared several years off the club's average age. And Moss is thrilled because Kiwanis allows her to seamlessly work community service into her busy schedule.

The Johns Hopkins University nursing student says the club's flexibility has been instrumental to her participation — a perk she doesn't take for granted, given her experiences with other groups. Recently she approached another service organization about participating, explained her scheduling problems, and was told that if she couldn't make the meetings she couldn't join.

So, not surprisingly, she didn't.

"The understanding my club shows me makes a huge difference," Moss says. "Because if you really want to attract young members, you need to be accommodating."

Moss returns the favor by pitching in for pretty much every club event, including its contribution to the Wheel to the Sea program, which takes wheelchair-bound paraplegics on extensive nature hikes and even allows them to dip their toes in the Pacific Ocean. Moss has done it four times, riding to and from the event with the participants and helping maneuver their specially designed "off road" wheelchairs over rough country.

"I love it," she says. "I love everyone in the club. Everyone's really nice and friendly and I've enjoyed all the activities."

Leyden and the other members certainly love having her. He says that the next time you're eying a potential members their 50s, 60s or 70s, be sure to look over their adult children as well.

"The main thing is to ask," he advises. "Don't be bashful." — Sam Stall

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