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Holiday celebrations with underprivileged kids

By Samuel Rubenfeld

Kids danced to music and created arts and crafts in the Student Center Multipurpose Room this past Tuesday. The Nassau County Youth Board sponsored a holiday celebration for underprivileged youth for the 11th-annual celebration, which the University has held every year.

The celebration is nondenominational, and it had events celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Three Kings. Over 260 children were in attendance, along with more than 40 volunteers, parents and sponsors. The children were predominately minorities.

"Young people from over 30 communities in Nassau County are here," said Angela Zimmerman, director of training and advocacy for the youth board. "This is a cultural mosaic for children of all backgrounds to come together, learn, celebrate and have fun."

University Relations also sponsored the event, by giving it a place to be held. "We've supported this since the beginning," said Ginny Ehrlich-Greenberg, director of public relations for the University Relations office.

Community organizations, including the Glen Cove Boy's and Girl's Club, celebrated the holidays at the University as well. HSBC Bank USA was one of many new corporate sponsors of the Holiday celebration. "[The celebration] is funded by private donations, foundations and corporations," said Zimmerman.

Many youth organizations were represented at the celebration, including Copay Inc., a non-profit organization that offers after-school care and tutoring for underprivileged youth in Great Neck. "I want to thank Hofstra University for holding the event," said Sheryl Luna, an academic instructor from Copay.

Martin Kramer, who was a member of the board of the Nassau County Youth Board when it started 11 years ago, organized the event. "The Youth Board has 42 after-school agencies, which each submit a list of names for kids they think should go to the party," he said. "The volunteers are affiliates of the Youth Board."

Youthful community volunteers helped as well. "The event is really great because it is giving kids a holiday celebration," said Abigail Agoglia, a high school senior and member of the Nassau County Executive Youth Committee.

"We hope they had a good time," said JoAnna Datz, another high school senior and member of the committee.

Some adults volunteered whatever time they could to the Board, and also chaperoned the party. "It's all about giving back and remembering how blessed you really are," said Wilfredo Maldonado, a 51-year-old retiree.

At the celebration, each holiday had its own arts and crafts booth. Children could color Chanukah menorahs, make paper bag reindeer, spinners with the colors of Kwanzaa and make picture frames for Three Kings. The high school students had organized the arts and crafts.

A DJ provided musical entertainment, and assorted volunteers came to perform for the children, including a STOMP group from Freeport, a magician and the I Support Roosevelt "Six Black Diamonds" dancers.

The children loved the activities and were having a great time. "I love the candy," Jabbai, 9, said.

Most of the children, however, loved the youth volunteer art programs. "I loved the arts and crafts!" Joannah, 6, said.

"So do I," said Cherish, also 6 years old.

The entire event was focused on the children. The volunteers all agreed that they were there to see them have a good time.

"We want to help the kids out," said Sue Bennett, a volunteer for the past five years. "It's all about them, after all."

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