Individuals, organizations and institutions around South Florida have been working early to ring in holiday cheer by helping and supporting others.
Once again this year the 100 Black Men of South Florida hosted its 22nd annual Christmas Shopping Spree in Miami Gardens, treating more than 100 boys and girls from 13 organizations to the 100’s trademark early Christmas shopping spree.
The service, a trademark of the group, allows youths to spend $100 on items of their choice for themselves and family members.
In Riviera Beach, “5th Grade Fun Day” gathered 450 students and 30 teachers at John F. Kennedy Middle School, including others from nearby West Riviera, Washington, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Lincoln and Grove Park elementary schools, where a reptile show included a Burmese python displayed by Patrick Lemke, owner of A Perfect Party in West Palm Beach.
Also in Riviera, about 40 elementary-aged children and their parents enjoyed “Breakfast With Santa” on Dec. 10 at the Lindsey Davis Center. The children were members of the Bee Brilliant Book Club, a program sponsored by Bridges of Riviera Beach, a community development organization financed by the Children’s Services Council.
Besides a pancakes-and-bacon breakfast, the children decorated a Christmas Tree for the center’s senior citizens’ day program and opened gifts provided by Riviera Beach Councilman Shelby Lowe. He said he supported the program because of its education and family component: The club promotes positive family interaction and requires the involvement of parents in helping their children learn to read.
“That connectedness is missing from the lives of a lot of children today and it needs to be restored in order for them to be successful in school, in whatever they want to do,” Councilman Lowe said.
Also on Dec. 10, Miami Dade College North Campus administration, staff, faculty and students hosted the 7th annual children's holiday celebration with a parade at the campus.
CHARACTERS ON PARADE
Stoking the holiday spirit was a wonderland of fun and exhibits, live performances, food, and free train, pony and carriage rides. An opening parade featured the Hialeah Gardens Senior High School Band and Hialeah Gardens Gladiators. Included were Santa's Elves, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, super heroes Captain America and Spiderman, the Queen of Spades, Mickey and Minnie Sponge Bob, Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, the Cat in the Hat and Janey Tate, Miss Miami Gardens.
On Saturday at the Tate Recreation Center, Riviera Beach’s Parks & Recreation Department hosted its 11th annual Winter Wonderland — in conjunction with the Operation Hope Foundation, Sickle Cell of Foundation of Palm Beach County and Nelson Outreach Foundation — giving toys to hundreds of impoverished children. Transported in a fire truck, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus made a grand entrance to the event, which served approximately 1,000 girls and boys from the surrounding communities.
Also, more than 125 needy children and their families were treated to a hot Christmas meal, plus food baskets and “family together” games to take home, thanks to a multi-level partnership organized with the help of Councilwoman Billie E. Brooks.
The councilwoman’s office joined with West Riviera Elementary School, Healthy Food, Healthy Living Food Bank and Revival Community Outreach Ministries in a targeted effort to help the students and families of West Riviera Elementary — particularly those children who are homeless or near homeless but still attending school.
The “Community Christmas Cookout” was held at Revival Church of God, just across the street from West Riviera Elementary. The school and the church sought each other out and brainstormed about ways they could help the surrounding community. Saturday’s event was their first joint project.
“This project is a wonderful example of people crossing boundaries for the good of children,” Councilwoman Brooks said.
DOLPHINS KICK IN
In Davie, Miami Dol-phins players, cheerleaders, coaches and the Miami Dolphins Women’s Organization (MDWO) provided holiday cheer and presents to more than 160 students from Miami-Dade and Broward County Public Schools along with children from area charities as part of the Fins and Kids Holiday Toy Event.
Participating were Poinciana Park, Ben Sheppard, North Side and Miami Gardens elementary schools, Alternative Family Care Center, Cooperative Feeding Program, Urban League of Miami, Project Medishare and ChildNet.
The day’s festivities began with a dance contest emceed by Dolphins players Davone Bess and Brian Hartline and judged by the players at the team’s indoor practice facility. After the dance contest, participants received holiday toys chosen from their own personal wish lists and donated by players, coaches and the MDWO. A host of players including Will Allen, Ryan Baker, Bess, Dan Carpenter, Brandon Fields, Hartline, Chad Henne and Jared Odrick took part.
“Everybody deserves a happy, warm holiday season,” said Bess. “To be able to go home and know that you’re going to be able to wake up on Christmas morning and open up a gift means a lot. A lot of kids for whatever reason probably can’t afford it or they’re not fortunate enough. I’m really happy to be a part of something to be able to help.”
The day was especially memorable for students from North Side Elementary.
“This year was a little different,” said Janet Del Pinal, Coordinator of Community Involvement for Broward County Public Schools. “Normally we select two schools from Broward County. This year, we only selected one because we got a very heart-wrenching letter from North Side Elementary, which has a very large Haitian population.
“We were finding out that a lot of the parents because of the earthquake in Haiti have been telling their children that Pierre Noel, which is Santa Claus to them, has died in the earthquake. Parents just didn’t have the needs to provide a Christmas for their children so because we got that letter it was very heart-wrenching that we decided to invite all 50 students from the school.”
Photo: Alan Luby/Photos FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES
Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Lincoln and Grove Park elementary schools, as Patrick Lemke, owner of A Perfect Party in West Palm Beach, helped liven “5th Grade Fun Day.”