BERKELEY – The Silver Ridge community recently hosted their annual Holiday Party for the children from Berkeley and Barnegat’s Head Start programs at the Silver Ridge Park West Clubhouse.
The clubhouse, decked with red and green decorations, balloons, gifts galore, and a throne for Santa, had been transformed into a holiday wonderland.
For the 21st year in a row, the ladies of the Silver Ridge community, led by long-time volunteer Vivian Evanchik, threw a fun and festive holiday party filled with song, dance, food, games, gifts, and a visit from Santa for the Head Start children. The Head Start programs are meant to support underprivileged children from low-income families.
“Every year it’s a new group…this year it’s more boys than girls,” said Donna Wacha, co-chair of the Silver Ridge Committee. Wacha helps Evanchik put together the holiday party each year and came this year dressed as Raggedy-Ann to add to the festive theme of the day.
The Head Start children from Berkeley schools are regular invitees to the party. This year was Barnegat’s first year being invited, as their Head Start programs recently went full-session, according to Wacha.
High school seniors from the Donovan Catholic Honor Society also joined in the fun by volunteering to spend time with the Head Start kids during the party.
Two senior boys, Dylan Wintrode and Anthony Silvestroni, ate and talked with some of the little kids at their tables.
“We brought presents and helped set up,” said Silvestroni.
As part of the preparation, the community members of Silver Ridge work together to provide wonderful gifts for the kids for months leading up to the event. The ladies of Silver Ridge come to the clubhouse one day a week for months to start creating decorations and hand knitting gifts for the kids’ presents. Gifts are also donated by the Donovan Catholic students and partially funded by the proceeds from the ticket sales at $12 a head for members of the community and guests.
The front of the room was littered with dozens of holiday gift bags brimming with stuffed animals, toys, pencil boxes full of art supplies, books, handmade stockings, hand-knit sweaters, scarves, mittens, and socks. Snacks and cookies donated from Nabisco.
“Vivian shops for a whole year,” to prepare gifts for the holiday party, said Wacha.
Evanchik spent most of the party running from here to there, cooking in the kitchen, and organizing the day’s events.
“There were 74 tickets sold this year,” said Evanchik. “There are 25 Donovan Catholic students, 27 kids from Barnegat, and 15 kids from Berkeley.”
With a buffet full of pasta, salad, bread and dessert, guests at the party laughed and enjoyed themselves as the kids participated in a joyous sing-along with entertainer, Jan Hayes, and opened gifts from Santa. There were numerous tables packed with members of the Silver Ridge community and other guests, and even Berkeley Councilwoman Judy Noonan was present.
“I come every year,” said Noonan.
“The seniors love it just as much as the kids,” said Hayes.
Evanchik referred to the whole process as a “labor of love”.