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January 7, 2009 > Niles Rotary hosts Saturday with Santa

Niles Rotary hosts Saturday with Santa

Submitted By Sandi Pantages

The Niles Rotary Club made the holidays brighter for Winter Relief families of the Tri-City Homeless Coalition with a special party on December 20 at Cici's Restaurant in Niles. Cici's banquet room was turned into a winter wonderland by Niles Rotarian Al Cunha.

The morning began early with children's craft making. The children had a wide variety of craft items to decorate the frames for the family photos they would later have taken with Santa Claus. In the meantime, parents could spend some quiet time visiting with one another. The excitement grew as the bounce house opened, and the horse rides began.

While some children enjoyed the bounce house, others lined up for what was, for most, the first horse ride they'd ever had. The beautiful sorrel, Blaze, calmly walked the excited children around the grounds behind Cici's. Blaze's owner, Niles Rotarian Daren Young, commented that Blaze could walk all day with the kids riding him. One young teenager said that he'd "never touched a horse before, and he wasn't going to this morning either!" But curiosity overcame his reticence; he got on Blaze for his ride and enjoyed it as he flashed "victory" and "hang loose" signs. The youngest children got to ride with the older kids and all were quite excited to touch and ride the horse. The excitement grew even more as the children and parents knew that Santa Claus was going to arrive soon.

With Santa Claus's arrival, families sat with Santa, had their photo taken, and received their gifts. Each family, including the children, had been interviewed by the gift shopper to determine what they wanted and needed. The shopper then used funds donated by Niles Rotarians to shop for the items - the shopping was all done in Fremont. Gifts included practical things like clothes, plus toys and fun things, and were professionally gift wrapped by Niles Rotarians and friends. Donations of much needed automobile tires and diagnostics were also made by Niles Rotarians. The families all enjoyed sharing the excitement of their own gifts and the group as a whole, which feels like an extended family.

The party concluded with lunch, donated by Cici's, who had also donated the beautiful party space.

As one child told Niles Rotarian Rose Everndon-Andrade, "This is the best day ever in my life." A parent told a Niles Rotarian, "This wonderful party is more than I wished for."

The Tri Cities Homeless Coalition's Winter Relief Program is a supplement to Sunrise Village and provides overnight housing for about 30 people in families, who do not have a place to live during the winter. The families are sheltered overnight in churches in the area - a month in each of several churches from November until April. Dinners are provided by the Centerville Free Dining Room on their regular Tuesday and Thursday nights, and on other days dinners are provided by community volunteers (e.g. church volunteers, Niles Rotary, and other volunteers). After dinner, the families receive services from the Homeless Coalition (e.g. counseling, various skills classes and homework help). In addition, showers are provided at the churches. During the daytime, the children and their parents go to school, work, job-seeking, etc. and return to the host church at night. The families sleep in the social halls or classrooms of their host churches.

Event chairwoman, Niles Rotarian Rose Evernden-Andrade notes that "This is the best thing our Rotary club does in our community - it's my favorite project, and the best day of the year for me." Rose, along with her husband Randy and son Nicholas have worked hard at this event for many years. Many Niles Rotarians bring their children to help with the event as Santa's elves in a variety of ways.

For these families with so little who are working as hard as they can for their children and to get their lives stabilized, Saturday With Santa gives them a day of being treated in a very special way. It can be "the best day" of their lives. Niles Rotary is helping with Rotary International's theme to "Make Dreams Real" by sponsoring this event, which was just one of several special holiday events sponsored by Rotary and other service clubs in the area.

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