From the check-in table in the foyer of the Bianchi Community Center to the food tables featuring pizza and desserts, local youngsters and their families attending a special Lions Club event on Friday were treated to some holiday happiness.
It was the annual Children’s Christmas Shopping Tour and while it may have changed over the past few years, the outcome is still the same: lots of smiles.
Lions Club member Greg Rivera has helped to oversee the ‘shopping tour’ for the past several years. It used to be hosted at the local K-Mart, with Lions Club members and community volunteers taking children shopping for needed clothing and, if the budget permitted, a toy or other treat.
Following the closure of K-Mart and then battling through the pandemic, the shopping is now left up to the individual families, as they receive gift cards for their children.
This past Friday, the gift cards were given to families that had signed up for the program and they were also invited inside the Community Center to enjoy hot pizza, beverages, cookies and a visit from Santa. There were also age-appropriate toys, with each child in attendance receiving a gift.
Working the front table, checking in families and making sure they received the gift cards, were John and Lorraine Fauria, Tom Orvis and Brian Tacke.
Several Lions Club members were on pizza duty, making sure there were plenty of hot pies available as attendees filled their plates.
Rivera said about 175 area youngsters were recipients of gift cards this year. He added that the gift card amount for each family depends on the number of children.
“We went up to close to 300 at one point,” Rivera said of the number of recipients in the past.
They get donations from the community to help secure the gift cards and Rivera said they have worked with Family Support Network over the years to make sure families in need are included in the program.
“They’ve been very helpful with that,” said Rivera.
There were toys for all age ranges, boys and girls, and children attending took a break from eating their pizza when the special guest arrived, ringing his sleigh bells and booming out a warm welcome. There was applause and cheers and then the kids got into line to have a chance to speak with Santa and pose for a photo.
Lions Club President Glen Gorman said it was a successful event again this year.
“It was just great … to see the smiles on the faces of those kids, I mean, it’s really touching, it just really makes it worthwhile,” Gorman said.