A very special Rotary luncheon

Published 10:31 am Wednesday, December 15, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Students in the Head Start and Early Learners programs at Northside Child Development Center got the chance to have lunch with some special lunchmates Monday.
The Niles-Buchanan Rotary Club held its annual holiday luncheon party for the preschoolers at Northside Monday, with fish-shaped fish sticks, green beans, and tater tots being the main items on the menu.
The luncheon is held in place of the Rotary Club's December meeting, giving Rotarians a chance to talk toys and food with the youngsters, rather than business amongst themselves.
The luncheon began with a few opening songs performed by Voices Unlimited, the Rind Lardner Middle School choir.
Brandywine Public Schools Superintendent Gary Rider recruited another member to the "Green bean Team" as he ate lunch with preschooler Myles Lawrance, whom he convinced to eat all the green beans on his tray.
After eating their lunches, the children got the chance to visit with another special guest who goes by the name of Santa Claus.
Rotarians led the children up to Santa, holding each child by the hand as the children prepared to let their Christmas wishes be known.
After visiting with Santa, each child received a gift bag filled with a coloring book, crayons, a holiday book the children's parents could read to them, Play-Doh, a pair of mittens or gloves, an ornament and a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Preschooler Lexie Ferguson had a sizeable request for Santa Claus. She asked him for a kitchen, and not just a play kitchen, a full size real one she said.
Ferguson said she likes to cook so she asked for the kitchen.
The lunch is a chance for Rotarians to connect with the students and give them a positive experience during the holidays, Meyers said.
Rotarians have been holding the lunch at Northside for Head Start program participants for about 20 years Meyers said.
The party originated when Rotarians decided they wanted to hold a special party for the preschoolers at Northside.
The Rotary Club does not hold a holiday party for its own membership, the group instead holds the luncheon at Northside for the children.
Among the Rotarians were high school students also dining with the preschoolers. Meyer said it's not uncommon for older students who once ate with the Rotarians as children at Northside to come back and eat with children as guests of the Rotary Club.
The Head Start and Early Learners programs are federal and state funded programs respectively, designed to prepare preschoolers for their entrance into kindergarten.
Northside currently has 180 students involved in the two programs, with more students on a waiting list to join.
Northside Principal Cindy Wickham said the luncheon is a great time for all those involved.