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Smart Start Rowan plans Breakfast With Santa fundraiser for Dec. 9

By Susan Shinn Turner

Smart Start Rowan

SALISBURY — The calendar reads early November, yet Breakfast With Santa is only a month away.

Smart Start Rowan is holding its first Breakfast With Santa mini-fundraiser from 9 to 11 a.m. Dec. 9 in “The Pit,” located on the lower level of St. John’s Faith Center in downtown Salisbury. Visitors may enter from Jackson Street.

Tickets are $10 per person, which includes breakfast, arts and crafts activities, and a visit and photograph with the Jolly Old Elf himself.

“Honestly, this idea came about last year when I was trying to find a Santa portrait opportunity for my daughter,” says Mary Burridge, Smart Start Rowan’s family support manager. “It was ridiculously expensive just to stand in line for a picture. I wanted an experience for families that we serve.”

Smart Start Rowan staff members ran the idea by the Stanly County Smart Start, which has conducted a similar event for a number of years.

“They said all of our ideas were wonderful,” says Amy Brown, Smart Start Rowan’s executive director. “It’s been a good fundraiser for them.”

“It brings families to us who may not normally use or be aware of our services.”

Smart Start Rowan serves children in Rowan County to age 5. Its offices, at 1329 Jake Alexander Blvd., include an Early Childhood Learning Center with a $10 annual membership to check out bins of books, toys and activities, and a playroom that’s free and open to the public. The agency also hosts support groups for parents and many other programs for children and families.

Breakfast With Santa will raise money to purchase new equipment and toys for the playroom, which has been well loved and used for the past several years. Funds for this space must be raised privately, Brown notes, because state funds cannot be used.

The playroom is open to the public on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Tuesday and Thursday, it’s the location for DSS family reunification visits, Brown said.

“We have several parents and grandparents and caregivers who come use our playroom for play dates,” says Bianca Munoz Norman, resource specialist. “Families feel safe and welcome. The children, of course, love the playroom. I’ve watched many children grow up in the playroom, from babies who are barely crawling to toddlers on the move. Watching the families thrive and enjoy our resources is one of the favorite parts of my job.”

At Breakfast With Santa, families will first gather for a continental-style breakfast, Burridge says. “Then we’ll break into groups for two different arts and crafts activities, story time and each family will have time to visit with Santa and have their photographs made. It will be a busy two hours.”

Burridge said each ticket holder receives a photo with Santa, so a family of four, for example, would have four shots from which to choose.

To be sure, Santa is gearing up for a busy season, Burridge says, what with appearances at the Carolina Renaissance Festival and the Polar Express at the N.C. Transportation Museum. He had a photograph session last year for the holiday cover of Salisbury the Magazine. But he’s looking forward to meeting local families who come to the breakfast, she says.

“We want to let parents know about everything Smart Start Rowan has to offer,” says Celia Jarrett, the daughter of the late Shirley Ritchie, who founded the organization. “Until I got involved, I didn’t realize everything that Smart Start Rowan does. They’re just a phenomenal organization, working with everything from literacy to dental health to family-centered events such as Breakfast With Santa.”

“This event will provide such a special time for a family to enjoy a Saturday morning during the holiday season,” says Barbara Corriher, a board member.  “What could be more fun than having your picture made with Santa, telling him your wishes for Christmas and enjoying breakfast together? We hope to see lots of families there.”

To purchase tickets for Breakfast With Santa, call Mary Burridge or Bianca Munoz Norman at 704-630-9085. Tickets may be purchased by credit card with a $20 minimum. Space is limited.

Smart Start Rowan is a Rowan County United Way member agency.

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