By Katie Zeck
While some find that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear, Rider’s Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity (TKE) spreads it by opening its doors to at-risk, underprivileged youth.
On Saturday, Dec. 3, TKE hosted its annual Christmas party for children of the Anchor House, an agency that provides food, emergency housing, clothing — and hope — for hundreds of struggling families and children in Trenton and the surrounding areas.
According to the Anchor House website, the organization aims to assist the “homeless, runaway and abused children and youth, from birth to 21 years of age, to enable them to utilize their strengths and the support of their families and communities to help ensure a stable and successful home.” For the past few years the event consisted of younger children from ages of about one to 12 years. This year, TKE offered to do more.
“[TKE] reaches out to us every year to have this party to supply the children with a nice afternoon and a few Christmas gifts that for some, would be the only gifts they receive this Christmas,” said Mereides Delgado, program coordinator of Angel’s Wings, a division of Anchor House. “This year, we asked if the older kids could attend as well, and TKE was very gracious in allowing everyone to come and accommodating us all.”
With the addition of the programs for older children, about 20 Anchor House participants ranging in age from one to 22 attended the party.
“I feel like that’s important; a lot of times people forget about the teenagers and young adults that are homeless or in foster care, so we were more than happy to invite them all over,” said Doug Cimino, the community service chair of TKE and this year’s organizer of the event.
In the basement of the Omega House there were games, pizza and a showing of Elf for the younger kids, while members of TKE took some of the older boys outside to play football on the unseasonably warm December afternoon. Members from all four sororities were also in attendance to assist with the afternoon’s festivities.
“It’s really fun here,” said one of the older boys. “I liked playing outside and talking with [the brothers].”
A Christmas tree was also set up with plenty of presents nestled under its needles to add to the merriment of the afternoon. Anchor House provided TKE with a list of each child’s age, sex and interests to use as a guide for what to purchase the children. The brothers fundraised by standing outside of ShopRite and explaining their cause, asking for any monetary or toy donations. Alumni and members of the sororities also contributed to make sure no child would leave without a gift.
Santa stopped by later in the afternoon to a surprised and excited bunch. The kids were able to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas, take pictures with him and receive their very own Christmas gift directly from the big guy.
“I think it’s a great event, mostly because it takes them out of their normal environment, which for some is less than pleasant,” an Anchor House volunteer said. “You can see in their faces just how excited they are to be here.”
The brothers enjoyed putting on the event just as much as the children of the Anchor House enjoyed visiting.
“It’s really important to be in this type of atmosphere at this time of year,” said Public Relations Chair Adam D’Aleo.“We take for granted what we have, little things that they don’t have. Participating in an event like this and being able to make a difference in these kids lives; that’s Christmas, that’s the holidays for me.”
To learn more about Anchor House and receive information on how to volunteer visit www.anchorhousenj.org.