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Westminster resident Art Riley wants to ‘inspire’ as president of Kiwanis International

Art Riley is a lifelong Carroll County resident and said the relationships he’s built over the years make the county such a special place to live.

Riley has devoted more than 40 years to community service and leadership at local, national and international levels. He was recently elected president of Kiwanis International during a council meeting held in lieu of the annual Kiwanis International Convention, according to the Kiwanis website.

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Riley was first elected to the Kiwanis International board of trustees in July 2014 and his presidential term runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, 2021.

“This means several things to me,” Riley said. "I try to inspire local Kiwanians and figure out the best ways that they can serve the children of their communities. The slogan is ‘Serving Children of the World,’ so the children’s needs in Carroll County are different than they are in Taiwan, different than Malaysia, South Korea, Canada, Jamaica or Europe.

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“It’s up to local Kiwanis chapters to decide how best to serve the children in their community.”

Art Riley, president of Kiwanis International, pictured at his home in Westminster Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.
Art Riley, president of Kiwanis International, pictured at his home in Westminster Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

Kiwanis International takes on large-scale challenges, such as fighting disease and poverty. Kiwanis members host approximately 150,000 service projects and complete more than 19 million service hours a year, according to the Kiwanis website.

Riley, a 1965 Westminster High School grad, said his father was a Kiwanian for more than 60 years and working with clients to raise money for community projects was always a part of their family culture. Riley’s official service in the Kiwanis family began as a member of the Key Club in high school, and he continued as a member of the Kiwanis Club of Westminster, where he has served for 39 years.

Key Club is a student-led high school organization sponsored by Kiwanis, and its goal is to encourage leadership through community service projects. Riley previously served as lieutenant governor of the Key Club International Capital District from 2007 to 2008, which includes more than 13,500 members and 235 clubs in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C.

“We grew up in a time when Westminster was smaller and everybody looked out for everybody else,” Riley said. “We were given part-time jobs by business owners, and we learned business practices and how to treat people.”

There are currently 49 Kiwanis districts and provisional districts within Kiwanis International that compensate 80 different nations and geographical locations. Each district is led by a governor who is elected with the rest of the executive board at the district’s annual convention, according to the Kiwanis website.

“While you’re on the board, you’re assigned different districts around the world to help coordinate their activities,” Riley said. “We call the counselors to help guide the districts and so on. Once you’ve completed that term, you become eligible to be nominated for president.”

Riley has served as counselor to 12 Kiwanis districts and traveled to more than 30 districts around the world. He and his wife, Vickie, participated in a site visit to Cambodia for The Eliminate Project, a Kiwanis International partnership with UNICEF created to fight maternal neonatal tetanus in women and children worldwide.

This disease kills around 60,000 newborns each year and is contracted by infants born under unclean birth practices, according to the World Heath Organization website. Most die within seven to 10 days after birth.

“Kiwanis said, ‘We’ll raise $110 million to buy the vaccines and UNICEF will take them to these remote villages,’ ” Riley said. “There were [originally] 40 countries identified by the World Health Organization and we’ve now reduced it to under 10.”

Riley said the major emphasis of Kiwanis is to develop leaders of tomorrow’s youth around the world, and he hopes to see Key Club programs grow in the future.

“We sponsor action clubs for young adults with learning disabilities,” Riley said. “I would like to see these programs expand so our youth are exposed to more leadership opportunities because they’re the future leaders of tomorrow.”

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