HUDSON ó Santa made an early stop last week, taking some time out of his busy schedule to bring a little Christmas cheer to 18 students in the pre-kindergarten program at Hudson Elementary School.
As usual, Santa had some help. That came courtesy of members of the Summertree Ladies Golf League in Hudson, who were more than happy to take on the role of Santaís elves. They provided toys, winter hats and gloves, and hand-knitted sweaters for each child to take home.
"The toys are always a hit, but the hats and gloves they always go nuts over. I donít understand why ó itís Florida, but the kids always put them on right away," said club secretary Jan Van Horn, who headed up the annual holiday event, now in its 17th year.
The holiday party is one way community members help lift the tide at the Title I school, where about 82 percent of students qualify for the federal free- and reduced-price meals program.
Local churches and community service organizations help stock the school food pantry and the Pack a Sack program that sends food home with students each Friday so they wonít be hungry over the weekend, said Hudson Elementary principal, Dawn Scilex. A week earlier, she said, two service groups from Heritage Pines retirement community ó Angels in the Pines and the Toymakers Club ó provided scarves and 300 handmade toys for Hudson Elementary students to take home.
Itís a real blessing Scilex said, adding "any need we have here, we reach out to the community and itís taken care of. Itís overwhelming at times ó how much they do for us."