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Smart Start Rowan hosts second-annual Breakfast with Santa

By Susan Shinn Turner
Smart Start Rowan

Have you ever been to a Christmas party and discovered that everyone was on the Nice List?

That was exactly what happened Saturday morning at the second-annual Breakfast with Santa sponsored by Smart Start Rowan. Held in The Pit (youth group area) of St. John’s Lutheran Church, it was an affordable way for local families share a delicious breakfast, make crafts, and spend some quality time with the Jolly Old Elf himself. Tickets were $10 per child and included all activities and the much sought-after photo with Santa.

The event is the brainchild of Mary Burridge, family support program lead, who had looked for just such an event to share with her own children. So she created one. Some 50 people attended last year’s inaugural event, while 86 participated Saturday. The event quickly sold out, then sold out again almost immediately when 15 more slots were added, she noted.

Families came from Salisbury, all over the county, Lexington, Charlotte, and Mount Pleasant to attend the event. Burridge said it was a good mix of area families and families who participate in Smart Start Rowan’s program. The agency serves all children ages birth to 5 in Rowan County. Burridge created a colorful display of all of the programs Smart Start Rowan offers: Early Learning Resource Center, Smart Start Rowan Playroom, N.C. Pre-K Program, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, and the Kaleidoscope Play and Learn group for children ages 0-5 and their caregivers.

The menu, served by Smart Start Rowan staff members and board members, included savory breakfast casserole, French toast sticks, muffins, cinnamon rolls, and fresh fruit. It was an all-hands-on-deck morning for the Smart Start Rowan staff, many of whom brought along their children or grandchildren.

Amy Brown, Smart Start Rowan’s executive director, was babysitting her 7-month-old great-nephew, Maverick Speicher, for the weekend. She’d called in reinforcements — her mother, Alice Archer. All three were in attendance Saturday morning.

“It takes two of us, you know,” Archer pointed out. “But he’s so good.”

Laura Villegas, Smart Start Rowan’s director of programs, brought along her two grandchildren, Lana Powers, 4, and William Powers, 3, from Kannapolis.

“I’m eager to see how they do with Santa,” she said.

Graham McKeithan, 22 months, did just fine, thank you very much.

“He loved Santa,” said his mom, Beth, “He didn’t want to leave.”

Bianca Munoz-Norman, Smart Start’s resource specialist, attended with her husband, Henry Norman, their three children, Emilio, 7, Lucy, 4, and Nola, 1, and her mom, Rosa Isabel Dorantes.

“I see our Early Resource Learning Center members every time they come into the office, but it’s also good to see them in a holiday setting,” Munoz-Norman noted.

Brenda Morris brought along five of her grandchildren. She has 10 children and 47 grandchildren and great-grands.

“We were here last year and we really enjoyed it,” she said. “Breakfast was great.”

Debbie Carter brought her three children as well as her brother’s three children.

“It’s great,” said Carter, who also attended last year. “I like the Nice List. It’s a cute addition. This is a great event, and the kids just love it.”

In the craft room, Alexandra Pleitez, 10, and Anthony Menendez, 6, were making Christmas ornaments.

Alexandra said she asked Santa for an LOL surprise toy and an American Girl doll — it doesn’t matter which one.

She was clearly in awe of her meeting with St. Nick.

“I don’t know how to describe it,” she said. “He is the real Santa.”

Smart Start Rowan is a United Way member agency.

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