Celebrating the True Meaning of the Holiday Season for 27 Years
HOUSTON (December 4, 2014) Today, Saint Nicholas visited over 7,000 students in the Houston and Bay area as a part of Volunteer Houston’s Discovery Day with A Visit from Saint Nicholas program. Each Pre K through 2nd grade student at the nineteen participating schools was greeted with their own backpack filled with toys and books.
“Our children look forward to this program all year,” said Trealla Epps, Principal of Bruce Elementary one of the participating schools. “To see their light faces light up when they recieve their gifts is magical!”
Since 1987, A Visit from Saint Nicholas has reached over 270,000 students. The schools participating in this year’s program were selected because of their Title 1 status – 75% or more of students receive free or reduced lunch services- an indicator of high need where many families do not have the means to provide gifts for their children during the holiday season.
Discovery Day is not just about getting, but imparts an important lesson about the meaning of generosity and community involvement. Volunteers from various corporations and community organizations read the historical version of the Saint Nicholas story and completed a small community service project.
“Over the years, we have found that many of the students in this program have negative feelings towards the word volunteering and often times associate it with a punishment,” said Cameron Waldner, Volunteer Houston’s CEO. “In order to instill in these young students that volunteering is a positive experience, Volunteer Houston added a hands-on service component to this year’s program. The Saint Nicholas program has a long history with the Houston community, and we are excited to evolve and make it even more meaningful.”
Students participated in one of two different service projects: assembling seed balls filled with wildflower seeds to be planted in front of their schools or creating holiday cards to be donated to Volunteer Houston’s Holiday Project – Volunteer Houston sends volunteers to visit individuals in nursing and care facilities on holidays. These volunteers bring holiday cards, cookies, and wonderful memories for the residents.
A special partnership occurred at this year’s featured school between Bruce Elementary and Trinity Luther School. Trinity Lutheran brought all of their seventh and eighth grade students to pass out backpacks and help the Bruce Elementary students complete their service projects.
“Imparting the lesson of community service is vital to any age group,” said Lisa Jakel, Director of Development for Trinity Lutheran School. “Our seventh and eighth graders enjoyed watching the students open their presents, working with them on their service projects, and learning about the true meaning of the season.”
Houstonians involved with the Saint Nicholas program include returning sponsors Joyful Toyful, ConocoPhillips, TAM International, The Boeing Company, CenterPoint Energy, Xerox Corporation, McGovern Foundation, CRC Insurance Services, Silver Eagle Distributors, Roadrunner Storage and Moving, Rosetta Resources, Eastman Chemical, Anne Lamkin Kinder Foundation, Silvestri Investments, Plains All American, Comcast, John and Cynthia Gualy, Brent and Jena Tredway, Dawn and Richard Rawson, and Eugene and Marta Krantz. New sponsors include Gary and Gervaise Petersen, Asset Risk Management, Trinity Lutheran Downtown, BB&T Bank, Avanti International, Coca Cola, University of Houston Downtown, Scott and Nancy Wynant, Mark Sooby, David and Karen Cecil, Nikki Payne on behalf of Accenture, Robbie Pape on behalf of Service Corps. International, and MWH Public Relations. A Visit from Saint Nicholas committee members include Chair Lisa Jakel of Trinity Lutheran Downtown, Community Volunteer Ashley Petersen, Coca Cola’s Nancy Bailey, and Volunteer Houston Past President Danya McIntyre Bogart.
“For many of these children, this is the only holiday joy they will experience,” said Cameron Waldner, CEO of Volunteer Houston. “Kind hearted sponsors and supporters are the backbone of this program and their generosity each year shows me why I love being part of this community.”