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. 10, Chautauqua Striders will host "Strider Claus" for the 11th year. In 2001, this tradition began with 20 children; this year, it's expected 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 and young adults, 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. 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 elves, students are 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, including 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.
Strider Claus makes a personal appearance to the delight of excited shoppers last year.
Anyone wishing to make a donation of any kind is encouraged to call 488-2203 for more information. (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 ensures 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, serve cocoa, or provide games and crafts prior to shopping. To each and every one who makes this remarkable event such a success, a heartfelt thanks.