A Visit From St. Nicholas
School Spotlight takes us to Jacksonville, Florida, where one heart-warming program is spreading holiday joy, hope and cheer to some less fortunate students in challenged schools throughout the community.
“A Visit From St. Nicholas” is a program targeting schools that have 70 percent and higher free and subsidized lunches. It surprises these underprivileged children with books and gifts, and – you guessed it – a visit from the one and only St. Nick.
For more than six years, HandsOn Jacksonville has partnered with volunteers and businesses in the Jacksonville area to put smiles on the faces of thousands of children. A month in advance, they are hard at work, diligently collecting items to stuff into backpacks that will be given as gifts, lighting up the eyes of these students.
A Visit From St. Nicholas also allows many individuals and companies the opportunity to give back to their community. They express their charity and generosity through giving children in-need something special for the holidays.
And for some, this backpack filled with books, small trinkets and toys will be the only gifts that they receive. HandsOn Jacksonville Director Judy Smith says, “The principals and teachers are so grateful for this visit, because they tell us [HandsOn Jacksonville] that in many of the kids’ homes there are no books that they can call their own, or maybe there are no books at all.”
Community members partaking in event preparations enjoy coming together. Volunteers say that although it is only a few hours of their time, it makes them feel good that that time is going to make a difference in the lives of some less fortunate children and families. These volunteer elves assemble thousands of backpacks that will be distributed at selected schools on the first Friday in December.
Once the backpacks are ready to go, more volunteers show up to the recipient schools and put operation “A Visit From St. Nicholas” into action. The halls and classroom doors are decorated and a backpack is placed on the desk of each child. The children are then read a holiday story by a volunteer reader, followed by a surprise visit from St. Nick. The excitement is so incredible, and the looks on their little faces are priceless.
As one teacher says, “Just to have someone to come and share to them the unconditional giving – it’s an amazing treat for them, and it’s gonna teach them to be able to give on to others.”
During this season of charity and giving, it is wonderful to see community come together and make a difference in the lives of so many children and families. This efforts put forth by HandsOn Jacksonville and its community members embodies the essence of the season and serves as a great motivation to give a little more. To see a video about this project, click here.
This charitable vigor is alive in every city, town and parish throughout this great land. What are some of the ways your community is coming together to perpetuate the spirit of the holidays? Use the box below to fill our ears with encouragement and our souls with warmth. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!