During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, many thoughts turn toward sharing with those less fortunate. Whether in the local community or the nation or the world as a whole, acts of kindness and goodwill abound. The "season of giving" gets its name for a very good reason, as people open their hearts to others, offering their friendship and caring by donating gifts of time, energy, and financial support.
Chautauqua Striders' sponsorship of "Strider Claus" every December is a perfect example of how the generosity and charitable spirit of many contribute to a more beautiful and fulfilling holiday for children and youth who might not otherwise be able to experience the gift of giving to their families and loved ones. This year, approximately 175 young shoppers were invited to enjoy this festive and joy-filled event. Community volunteers were joined by high school students from Chautauqua Striders Mentoring who, as "elves," aided younger children in their family shopping or assisted adults in wrapping and bagging selected presents "purchased" at no cost.
Chautauqua Striders tries to encourage students in each of its programs to do something for others in whatever way they can. Very often, simply sharing the gift of friendship and support through a card or a note is enough. Currently, students participating in the Futuro Latino club at Jamestown High School are crafting handmaid Christmas cards written in both English and Spanish languages that will be sent to men and women serving in the armed forces. In the North County, similar cards were designed and decorated by students at the Boys & Girls Club, Brocton and Westfield after school programs for Veterans Day in honor of those who have served and sacrificed in the past.
Mentor John with his mentor match Dylan ringing bells for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign at the Chautauqua Mall and enjoying each other’s company.
Mentors and their matches from Chautauqua Striders' program at Jamestown High School agreed to be bell ringers for the Salvation Army at SAM's Club. This was their fourth year in support of the Red Kettle Campaign. Another example of community giving involved several students assigned to APP (Alternate Placement Program) in the Jamestown Public School District. They offered to help construct the Christmas parade float for Joint Neighborhood Project recently. These young men were able to productively and artistically contribute to JNP's effort and find a connection to the community they might not otherwise have experienced.
Events held last spring and fall also found youthful participants from Chautauqua Striders taking part in "Hands on Jamestown" and "Walk United." In late May, mentors and their matches pitched in to clean up areas in and around City Hall and the Jamestown YMCA for the fourth year in a row. September found students from many of Chautauqua Striders' programs joining with others representing several additional community agencies to help raise $1,145.00 in support of the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County.
Giving so freely to people in their time of greatest need seems to be a truly unique American characteristic. In order to preserve and sustain this tradition, adults need to be positive role models and take time to talk to young people about the social mores they value. As they become adults, these fundamental truths will become critical in shaping the principles by which the young choose to live. According to the Search Institute, originators of the "40 Developmental Assets," positive values for success include caring, equality and social justice, integrity, honesty, responsibility and restraint. These accumulated assets help guide behavior and define experiences and future relationships.
In this spirit of the holidays, the season of giving, Chautauqua Striders wishes everyone peace and joy now and in the coming new year.
Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org