Antietam Exchange Club hosts annual Christmas party

December 04, 2010|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |

HAGERSTOWN — “It’s a perfect fit,” Arthur Schneider said.
The Antietam Exchange Club and the Washington County Health Department’s Healthy Families program have a common goal of proactively building strong families.
So for the last five years, when the exchange club has carried on its 35-year tradition of hosting a children’s Christmas party, they’ve thrown the fete for participants of the Healthy Families program.
This year, 98 adults and 78 children turned out for the Christmas party Saturday morning at Zion Evangelical and Reformed Church on North Potomac Street in Hagerstown. Schneider, Antietam Exchange Club member and event co-chairman, said that was the largest turnout in the party’s history.
“We want to serve as many as we can,” Schneider said. “If (Healthy Families) tells us they have 100 kids, we’ll figure out how to serve 100 kids.”
Tracy Soffe of Healthy Families said participants in the program are first-time parents. To qualify for services, mothers must be prenatal or have a child age three months or younger. Once enrolled, families can receive support, including home visits, until their oldest child turns 5.
Children who attend the Christmas party make crafts, receive a hot lunch and get their picture taken with Santa. They receive gifts including a coat or an outfit, an educational toy, and diapers or underwear depending on their age.
Alicia Chaney, 22, of Hagerstown, said she has been receiving Healthy Family services and going to the exchange club’s party since the birth of her daughter Gabriella Chaney, 4. The two attended this year, along with Alicia Chaney’s daughter Isabella, 3 months, and her boyfriend’s two 9-year-old sons.
Chaney said Healthy Families has linked her with resources for housing and to attend college. She’ll graduate from Hagerstown Community College in May and begin nursing school in the fall. The exchange club party has benefited her family in both tangible and intangible ways, Chaney said.
“The kids get to see Santa, have a meal and do crafts. It’s become a tradition,” she said. “I like that (the exchange club) is not just giving them toys. They also give them things that we, as parents, might have a difficult time providing, like diapers and things.”
Allison Hundley, 27, of Hagerstown attended the party with her son Mitchell Hundley, 19 months. She was impressed with the spirit of community partnership at the event. The church provided the space; AC&T donated the food; Kohl’s provided gifts; area businesses provided monetary sponsors; and numerous people volunteered. Event co-chairwoman Brenda Bush said the total cost of the party is about $10,000.
“I like the fact that everybody gets involved, that there is so much interaction from the community,” Hundley said. “The gifts and the money mean a lot, but even people just giving their time means so much.”

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