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This party 'is their Christmas'

December 04, 2005|By BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Older children watched the entertainment while their parents sat back holding small babies. While the children were excited about the imminent arrival of Santa Claus, everyone was well-behaved and focused on the performers.

"These children are so special," said Millie Lowman, executive director of the Parent-Child Center in Hagerstown.

On Saturday morning, the Hagerstown Exchange Club held a Christmas party for clients of the Parent-Child Center. About 85 people attended the event at the Alsatia Club on West Washington Street.

"Without this party, these children would not be having Christmas," Lowman said. "This is their Christmas."

The Parent-Child Center is a nonprofit organization that works for the prevention of child abuse and neglect, Lowman said. The center provides at-risk families with parenting classes, clothing, furniture and other items, some of which also are available to the public.

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Attendees at the party ranged in age from a few months to 13 years.

While this is the first year for the local Exchange Club to host the party, the Antietam Exchange Club had held one for the children every year for 17 years, Lowman said.

Vince Dellaposta, president of the Hagerstown Exchange Club, said about 25 members were helping with the party.

"We'll give the children toys, lunch, fruit baskets and cookies," Dellaposta said. "They'll get to meet Santa and sit on his lap."

Kenny Churchey, the Alsatia Club's activities director, cooked 100 hot dogs while overseeing kitchen operations. Pizza, chips and soda also were served.

Niki Perini, who entertained the children along with her voice and drama student, Andy Krehbiel, and accompanist Rachel Freeman, said that being with the children was "a wonderful blessing. When I asked the older children to help the younger ones do a finger play about Baby Jesus, they just jumped at the opportunity to be a helper. I knew at that point that their Christmas spirit was ready to go."

Perini and Andy performed "Jingle Bell Rock" and several other seasonal favorites.

Perini is a board member of the Parent-Child Center and owns Magic in Music and Motion studio in Hagerstown.

Andy, 13, also has helped the Parent-Child Center as part of his Eagle Scout project by building shelves. He is an eighth-grader at Northern Middle School.

Santa was portrayed by Bud Kline of Hagerstown, who sports a full head of wavy white hair and a natural flowing white beard. He walked into the room jingling a strap of bells as the children sang "Here Comes Santa Claus."

After hearing the children's wishes for Christmas, Santa Claus gave a huge bag of toys to each one. His helpers in the Exchange Club had purchased $3,000 worth of toys.

Kline, who said he has "looked like this for 38 years," also plays Santa at Long Meadow Shopping Center.

As he waited for his turn on Santa's lap, Christian Hoke, 3, said he planned to ask for "a big ball. And a frog, a big one."

His mother, Chastity Hoke of Hagerstown, said she has been involved with the Parent-Child Center for six years and that they are "really nice and very helpful. They help with diapers and clothes, and with curtains and kitchen stuff for my new apartment. If I need someone to talk to, they're there. If they can't help, they'll find someone who can."

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