Holiday spirit comes early at Robinson Gardens Apartments
Christmas came early at Springfield Housing Authority’s Robinson Gardens Apartments.
And for that, parents were most grateful.
More than 25 parents of young children recently made a stealth visit to the Community Room at Robinson Gardens, where staff with the Talk/Read/Succeed! program were passing out Christmas gifts and books to be wrapped and placed under family trees.
Gifts came from private donors, the Toys for Tots program, and the Book Rich Environment Program, to make for a rich and varied choice for parents doing their holiday shopping.
“This is making all the difference for me,” said Juanita Chipana, a mother of four who stopped by during the day-long event for gifts for her children.
“I was only able to afford one present for each of my kids, so this basically doubles it for me. This is very helpful, and I know my kids will appreciate it a lot,” Chipana added.
The event was quiet but fruitful for those who live at the family public housing development in the Pine Point section of the city. Parents were invited to come in at any time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and choose two gifts for each child.
SHA Program Coordinator Lynne Cimino said gifts came from the Western Massachusetts Marine Toys for Tots program as well as private donations.
Parents were also welcome to choose as many books as they wanted from the Book Rich Environment program, which is courtesy of a national coalition that includes the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Education, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the National Book Foundation and the Urban Libraries Council. SHA, and the City Library are local partners, giving out some 4,000 books per year to children from infancy up to age 12.
Cimino said the holiday gift giving directly to parents provided a much-needed Christmas boost for 25 families at Robinson Gardens.
“It’s the time of giving, and we try to do as much as possible to help our families here,” said Cimino, who manages the T/R/S! family-based literacy program at the development. “This makes our families happy, and they can see that we are helping when they need it.”
Indeed, for parents like Danielle Clark-Greenia, it was a holiday lifesaver.
“This helps me a lot,” said the mother of two young children. “I don’t really have enough money for Christmas shopping this year, and now I know they’ll have something to open from Santa.”
Ivette Fernandez, whose sons are 10 and 6, said the toys and books will also make for a richer Christmas at her home.
“It’s very helpful, that’s for sure,” Fernandez said. “The toys are great, but what I got the most of was books – my boys love books.”
Since the Book Rich Environment Program began in Springfield last year, many children have begun building small libraries in their homes – something many families of higher means can afford. Fernandez’ home is one of them.
Cimino said the books and toys combined were helping Robinson Gardens families have a happy Christmas.
“It’s going to be a good one this year,” she said, smiling.
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