ROCKINGHAM — Children in the Leak Street Cultural Center after-school program received bags of Christmas goodies and one tough order Wednesday afternoon: Peek, but don’t open.
The students — in kindergarten through ninth grade — were beneficiaries of a $10,000 gift from local Duke Energy employees, who wanted to make sure they and children at four Richmond County schools had presents under the tree and food in their bellies this Christmas.
“We asked the kids to write down four things that they would want for Christmas,” said J.C. Watkins, head of the center and the after-school Kids’ Cafe program. Center workers who shopped for the goodies tried to get each child at least one thing he or she had asked for.
Before the children were given their gifts in the center’s auditorium Wednesday afternoon, Watkins asked them to think of their benefactors but to remember: “You don’t need money to help someone.” A kind word or friendly gesture also works.
“(Still), the reason you’re here today is because someone in this county (is helping) you.”
Six-year-old Dimere Little could barely stay still in his seat as the gifts were passed out. He seemed to shrink a bit as each name called wasn’t his.
“I hope it’s a Power Ranger robot,” he said, after receiving and smooching his biggest present, mwah! mwah!
Zaelyn Townsend, 6, hoped for a Power Ranger Dino Charger but was philosophical. If he didn’t receive one, he said, happily: “I can get it next year.”
Each Kids Cafe attendee received a school uniform, an array of hats or gloves or socks, as well as a fruit basket containing an apple, orange and tangerine alongside a smattering of cookies and candy.
A local business owner who frequently donates to the center chipped in $1,000 to augment the $2,000 share of the donation from Duke.
Four Richmond County schools also received $2,000 each to purchase gifts for needy families: Fairview Heights, Monroe Avenue and West Rockingham Elementary schools, and Cordova Middle School.
Local Duke Energy Director Jeff House worked with schools social worker Evonne Moore to identify families in need.
Students received such things as bicycles and dolls and their families, $50 gift cards for festive foods.
House and his staff gathered with the families and school administrators Tuesday to present the gifts and gift cards.
The donated money came from the proceeds of a Duke Energy golf tournament and food sales.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.