Santa Zooms in to Sullivan Apartments
Santa Claus visited Springfield Housing Authority’s Sullivan Apartments in a virtual kind of way this season.
As children visited with Santa and Mrs. Claus on a Zoom screen, they decorated Christmas cookies – boots and shirts – with frosting and sprinkles. Cookies, frosting and sprinkles were provided by SHA’s Talk/Read/Succeed! program.
The afternoon event drew in a host of families ready and eager to participate in holiday fun, despite social gathering limitations due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
SHA Executive Director Denise R. Jordan said the virtual celebration offered Sullivan families with young children a chance to share in holiday joy while remaining healthy and safe at home.
“We’re happy to provide opportunities like this for our families during a difficult holiday season for so many,” Jordan said. “They were able to make cookies together, virtually speaking, and even visit with Santa.”
SHA Outreach Coordinator Zenaida Burgos put the program together with help from her husband Jerry, seen on the Zoom video get-together in red and white costume with jolly white beard. He greeted each and every participating child.
Burgos said the event was a big success.
“Everyone absolutely loved it,” she said. “This year has been a hard year due to the pandemic, especially for children. They deserve a little magic this year, and it brought joy to their heart.”
Children were invited to stop by to the Sullivan Community Room for their cookies, frosting and sprinkles. There, Burgos and Santa – from a safe distance – spoke to them briefly about Christmas, asking them to join the larger group on a Zoom session.
During the Zoom session, children were encouraged to wear holiday hats, clothing or pajamas. Many did.
“They enjoyed talking to Santa,” Burgos said. “Santa knew what they wanted for Christmas. They all were going to save some of the cookies that they decorated to put under their trees on Christmas Eve for Santa.”
Children and parents agreed that the event was fun and a welcome diversion from learning at home. Springfield children will be learning remotely until at least April, according to school officials.
“It was so much fun,” said Joeliani Roche, who is 10. “I’m so glad I got to see Santa and to talk to him. And we made cookies that we can leave for him when he comes back to give us presents.”
Her mother Yomary Smith agreed wholeheartedly.
“It was pretty amazing,” she said. “It made the children so happy and it gave them something fun to do together. They’re not able to play or do things together like they used to.”
Six-year-old Zhyanna Greene made both boots and shirts cookies.
“I loved making the cookies and talking to Santa,” she said. “It was so fun.”
Her mother Zuleyka Pedrosa said, “She loved it. It was such a good idea to have Santa there. I think it made all the children feel happy and special.”
Diane Franco’s four children also participated. Jeynalee, Jayshalee, Angel and Oneyshka had a wonderful time, she said.
“They all had a great time,” she said. “This was such a fun activity, and so many families were able to get involved. We need this now.”
Also participating were the Hutchins brothers, Jaylen, 10, and Javien, 7.
Burgos has worked hard during COVID-19 to create activities and keep families involved despite the limitations of not being able to gather as they once did.
“We want our families to stay engaged, and to understand that they have each other, and we are all going through this together,” she said.
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