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Friends step up to make Christmas special for children at Reading homeless shelter

When Alneasa Jordan learned that no groups of volunteers had signed up to serve meals Saturday at Opportunity House in Reading, she rallied the troops — her family, friends and community partners — to fill the void.

“I saw no one was signed up for Christmas, and it was just heartbreaking to see that,” she said,

Jordan, of Stony Creek Mills, tries to do something monthly to help out Opportunity House, a multifaceted social service organization that operates a homeless shelter on North Second Street.

A little over a week ago, she announced via Facebook that she and her friends would be cooking dinner for the women and children staying in the shelter. She asked her contacts to consider a toy donation to help the children in a difficult spot feel special this Christmas

Opportunity House provided a list of 35 people, ages 3 months to 20 years, along with their gift requests. Some requested household supplies rather than toys for themselves, which was humbling, she said.

Jordan’s appeal was answered nearly three-fold.

“I ended up collecting over 100 gifts for a total of 35 kids,” she said, adding that each child was able to receive multiple toys.

There was no shortage of helping hands Saturday in the kitchen to prepare and serve the food, which included ham, Spanish rice and sweet potato casserole, among others. Her son Josiah, 16, helped out along with his fellow student athletes at Berks Catholic High School, as well as some of his friends who go to Reading High.

Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, also known as Ben and Amy Schiavone of Exeter Township, handed the presents to children, who came up one at a time with their mothers, while the rest of the crew was getting ready to serve.

STEVEN HENSHAW — READING EAGLE

Mrs. Claus, also known as Amy Schiavone of Exeter Township, hands Christmas presents to Jaesion, 7, with her mother, Seara Peterson. In the background are Sara Mider of Denver and Mr. Claus, also known as Ben Schiavone. (STEVEN HENSHAW — READING EAGLE)

In addition to the wrapped gifts, new children’s story books were placed under a Christmas tree for the taking.

STEVEN HENSHAW — READING EAGLE

Amier Burdine, left a Reading High School student, and Jacob Collazo, 16, who goes to Berks Catholic, place children’s books under the tree in the dining room of Opportunity House in Reading. (STEVEN HENSHAW — READING EAGLE)

Amier Burdine, 16, a Reading High student, said serving the dinner was an opportunity to spend some time with his friends, including Josiah Jordan. Beyond that, he enjoys doing service on holidays.

Alneasa Jordan said she could never have pulled off Saturday’s event without her friends.

“We’re just so grateful for having the opportunity to get everyone together,” she said. “We have kids from Reading High and Berks Catholic, and this gives them the opportunity to give back to the community.”


Source: Berkshire mont

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