Kids buzzed with excitement as they moved between rooms receiving gifts from Santa and his elves, having their faces painted, eating pizza and playing games with foam snowballs Wednesday at the Westminster Chapter of the Boys and Girls Club.
Dressed as an elf, McDaniel President Julia Jasken joined Santa and McDaniel’s mascot, the Green Terror, in distributing gifts to more than 200 Boys and Girls Club kids. About 50 McDaniel College students volunteered to help supervise the fun at the club’s annual holiday party.
The Boys and Girls Club could not survive without help from partners such as McDaniel College, said Erin Bishop, the club’s marketing director. Each child received a hat, scarf, gloves, a stuffed anima and a long-sleeved shirt as gifts. McDaniel donated the shirts and held a silent auction fundraiser to help pay for the holiday party.
“It’s getting cold, and sometimes our kids don’t come to the club with hats and gloves on,” Bishop said. “Those are the things that disappear and sometimes it’s hard to afford to keep re-buying those, so we really appreciate that our partners donate those things to us so that our kids get a chance to stay warm in the winter.”
But Bishop said the college’s greatest contribution is its student volunteers, who serve as role models for club members.
McDaniel associate director of community engagement Tim McKenzie, who was responsible for organizing the volunteers, said volunteering is also a great learning opportunity for college students. They engaged the children by painting their faces, creating arts and crafts and playing snowball games with them.
“It’s been very delightful to see how this has come together and how everybody’s meshing so well,” McKenzie said. “It’s compelling and inspirational.”
Of the McDaniel students who volunteered Wednesday, 20 participate in a work study program at the Boys and Girls Club. Federal work-study jobs help students earn money to pay for college and the program supplies the club with workers at no cost to the organization.
Work-study participant Madeleine Richard, 22, a senior kinesiology major from Baltimore, said she visits the Boys and Girls Club almost every day. A mentor, Richard mainly helps the Boys and Girls Club kids with homework.
“My passion has been working with children for as long as I can remember,” Richard said, “and I know that I’ve been impacting these kids’ lives on a daily basis.”
Jasmine Monzel, 20, a junior studying kinesiology, said Wednesday was her first time volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club She loved it so much she’d like to do it again. Sophomore biology major Ria Hill, 19, agreed.
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“Boys and Girls Club is a pillar in the community, making sure kids are on the right track,” Hill said, “so giving back to them and making sure everyone has a good holiday season is really important.”
The Westminster chapter of the Boys and Girls Club is supported by grants and donations. Membership costs each child $30 annually, but the club spends about $4,000 on each member during the year. Bishop said the club functions as an extension of the school day for about 175 students daily.
Kids in elementary, middle and high schools participate in programs at the club, whose two floors include a gymnasium, a book nook, a homework area, a technology hub, an art studio, and a teen center designed for older kids.
Bishop said the Boys and Girls Club is for all children, and especially for children in need, because all children need nurturing to grow.
“This is an institution that is very, very necessary and important to the community,” McKenzie said. “They’re just really like a beacon of hope for Westminster.”
McDaniel has supported the Boys and Girls Club holiday party since its inception in 2011, when the building was located next to McDaniel’s campus. The club moved to 71 E. Main St., in the heart of downtown, in 2018.