Rotary hosts annual holiday party for preschoolersPublished 8:54am Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Four-year-old Maddox Carpenter had difficulty cutting the turkey on his plate with his tiny hands.
Joe Jilek, a State Farm agent and member of the Niles-Buchanan Rotary Club, saw Carpenter struggling and brought over his plastic fork and knife. Standing behind Carpenter, Jilek cut the food into bite-sized pieces for his little buddy.
As Carpenter began to eat, a choir group from Brandywine High School entered the gymnasium and began to sing Christmas carols.
Soon after, Santa Claus (played by Brandywine Supt. John Jarpe) arrived, eliciting smiles from the approximately 35 Tri-County Head Start preschoolers attending Monday’s Rotary-sponsored Christmas lunch.
The students, including Carpenter, received a free meal, gift bag and the opportunity to tell Santa Claus what he or she wants for Christmas.
“I told him I want a robot. A yellow one,” said Owen Clark, while adding he enjoyed the crayons most out of all the items in his gift bag.
Rotary Club member Jim Meyer said Rotary has been offering the Christmas party to Head Start students for approximately 30 years. Head Start is a federally funded program helping 3- to 4-year-old children from eligible families get a jump on education.
“Rotary’s focus in Niles and Buchanan has been on student scholarships and student assistance programs,” said Meyer, who works at Halbritter Funeral Home. “This is one of the few events where everyone in the club gets to sit down face to face with the student.”
The event was held at Brandywine’s Bell Education Center for the first time after being held at Northside Child Development Center the past several years.
Abby Schroeder, a Brandywine senior and member of the school’s Treblairs choir group, said they’d been practicing the carols a capella in preparation.
“When we were singing Rudolph I could see them trying to sing along — It was really cute,” she said.
Meyer said Rotary used to hold a Christmas party for its members, but decided to throw one for the Head Start students instead. The party was originally held at the First Presbyterian Church, but later moved to Northside.