NARRAGANSETT—Gifts and food products rested in long rows on the gymnasium floor at Narragansett Elementary School. As volunteers take count of the donated inventory, families from Narragansett begin to stream in, happily receiving the unselfish largesse which many in the local community have offered.
The Gingerbread Kids program is the effort of multiple community organizations to bring gifts and foodstuffs to Narragansett families who are less fortunate during the holiday season than typical households. The Narragansett Housing Authority, along with representatives of all three schools in Narragansett and town staff, have set up Christmas trees in their offices, upon which paper gingerbread men hang, each with a number designating a family and particular gifts.
“I’ve been working with the program for 15 years when the school nurse, Trudy McKendry, was organizer,” said Christine Lennon of the Narragansett Housing Authority. “After seeing what was going on, I said to myself, ‘Hey, I want to be a part of this.’”
On Wednesday, the donated gifts were gathered in the gymnasium at NES, and subsequently given out to families who arrived to pick up their gifts. 245 children from 140 families will receive presents which would otherwise be absent on Christmas day. The program, which has been organized in various forms for 32 years, has often gone unnoticed in the community.
“Most families in town don’t know about this program,” said Lennon. “In the past, the responsibility of buying and distributing gifts fell on town employees, but with the economy the way it is, it is tough.”
“Schools have always had a quiet community outreach,” said Gail Hovanesian, one of the main organizers of the event. “It is important that we are providing things such as meals for kids who we don’t know if they are getting food at home.”
“At least we can give them something, like a gift card,” she added. “This whole event is fun and makes my Christmas.”
A number of other local organizations donated their time and funding to purchase and deliver gifts to families in town, including the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce and Saint Mary’s Star of the Sea Church.
“There are some huge donors who have shopped for us and wrapped gifts,” said Lennon. “The Boy Scouts of Troop 1 Narragansett, the Girl Scouts, Narragansett PTO, and other town employees have been huge in helping out.”
The Narragansett Lions Club is participating for the first time, buying gifts for local families in need.
“We have fulfilled 105 wishes for children with gifts, and our members have really stepped up,” said Deb Kelso, President of the Lions Club. “We are always happy to help out the Narragansett Housing Authority.”
Funds from the Inez Sprague Fund were also used to buys gifts and support the running of the program.
“This program really is a good deed for us as teachers,” said Narragansett Elementary School Principal Gail Dandurand. “There is a lot of coordination which Gail Hovanesian does the bulk of, and it is a nice gesture given the really tough financial times here even in Narragansett.”
“There is also a lesson for the students about giving back, and we are modeling that with this program,” she added.