For most, the holidays are a special time spent with family and friends traditions upheld, dinners shared, gifts exchanged a time of joyousness. For others, happiness can be muted by poverty and hunger. Chautauqua Striders has watched many of the families and students it serves struggle to meet their daily needs, especially in light of the current economy. For them, the upcoming holiday season can often be very difficult.
On Dec. 12, Chautauqua Striders will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Strider Claus. In 2001, this tradition began with 20 children; this year, there will be well over 100 young people who are scheduled to arrive for shopping, food and fun. Students participating in Chautauqua Striders' programs are selected by tutors, mentors, academic and mentoring staff, teachers, and community partners. It is obvious during conversations with the children, that as they make their gift selections, they feel great satisfaction in being able to do something special and loving for their family members. In many cases, there would be no gift giving without this annual opportunity.
On the day of Strider Claus, students come to Chautauqua Striders' main office, located on the second floor of the Jamestown YMCA. Upon arriving, each receives a scrumptious treat of "reindeer mix" and a cup of hot cocoa while waiting for his or her turn to shop. There are holiday crafts to do and a variety of games to play as shoppers wait for a Strider Elf to come and escort a small group to the main shopping area. With the aid of their helpers, students will be able to choose from a large variety of items including: personal care articles, toys, books, games, jewelry, tools, small appliances and decorations, to name a few. Gifts are divided into various categories suited to specific giving, i.e. male and female, toys and games, tools and home decorations. After presents are chosen, each item is beautifully and lovingly wrapped and labeled by an army of volunteers. Strider Claus himself makes a special appearance, adding to the excitement of the day for younger shoppers.
This year will be the 10th anniversary of Strider Claus, with the event to be held Dec. 12.
Letters were sent out in September asking for community and business support. However, anyone wishing to donate new, unwrapped gifts are welcome to bring them to Santa Shoppe Headquarters in Chautauqua Striders' main office, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Located on the second floor of the Jamestown YMCA, 101 E. Fourth St., staff will be happy to accept gift and monetary donations. (Volunteer shoppers will be carefully selecting additional gifts for giving with any money received).
Chautauqua Striders has a rich tradition of community involvement and is dependent upon and extremely grateful to the many civic and church organizations, businesses, and individuals whose generous support ensure this event continues every year. It also takes many volunteers to make wishes come true. Without them, "Strider Claus" would not have enough "elves" in his workshop to select and wrap gifts, or serve cocoa, or crafts. To each and every one a heartfelt thanks!
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