We should have known that a pandemic couldn’t stop a holiday tradition like Kiddie Christmas.
If anyone knows how to troubleshoot a problem and find a solution, it’s the employees of Polk County Public Schools’ Information Systems and Technology (IST) division.
For more than 30 years, the IST division has organized Kiddie Christmas to benefit children in need within the school district.
Normally, students are surprised with new clothes, books, toys, and bikes during a party featuring Santa as the guest of honor. This year, Kiddie Christmas was a lot different, but IST employees were determined to make it happen.
On Wednesday, they dropped by Eastside Elementary to operate a drive-thru giveaway. They brought bags and boxes of goodwill and holiday cheer for the families of roughly 30 students who attend the Haines City school’s Head Start program.
Eastside Principal Elizabeth Munoz said many of her school’s families have been hit hard this year. Some parents have lost their jobs, and many families have moved in together to share expenses.
Munoz recalled that one parent waiting in the drive-thru line said she is going to college, and is so grateful for the assistance of Kiddie Christmas that she is looking forward to the day when she can help others out in the future.
“The parents have been very appreciative,” Munoz said.
IST division employees hold fundraisers throughout the year and receive donations from businesses to make Kiddie Christmas possible.
Rather than buy bikes or throw a party, the decision was made to offer a complete Christmas meal, since so many households are struggling to keep enough food on the table, said Marty Akers, an IST administrative assistant.
Families were given a choice of frozen turkey or ham, a large cardboard box filled with all the fixings, and even apple pie for dessert. Children received one set of clothing, which included socks, shoes and a jacket. They also got one of two board games: Chutes and Ladders or Candyland.
“This year’s Kiddie Christmas was different than what we usually do, but we hope it still helps make the holidays a little more special for these families,” Akers said.