When Santa arrived at Wimauma Elementary school using a Hillsborough County fire truck as a sleigh, some of the younger children were so excited, so much in disbelief at the happy sight, they had to cover their eyes. But as exciting as that was, if there was a cause for disbelief, it was awaiting the children in the school’s auditorium.
Inside that room was a scene that would bring a tear of joy to the eyes of the most jaded and cynical among us. In the auditorium, an organization of companies and more than a dozen volunteers had come together to make Christmas special for hundreds of children, some of whom are from families barely able to afford the basic necessities, let alone Christmas presents. More than a dozen people put aside their own obligations and deadlines for a day to become elves and to bring joy to children in the magical way that only elves can. It all happened on a December morning.
The spirit of Christmas isn’t found in the gifts; it is found in the love and generosity that inspire the giving of gifts. On that, the more than 600 children of Wimauma Elementary were immersed in the spirit, with love and generosity on such a rare scale that it could not be missed. On Dec. 4, members of the Frozen and Refrigerated Foods of Central Florida Association were certainly inspired. After class photos with Santa, the children walked around the room packed full of everything from treats to necessities, most piled high on tables. Carrying shopping bags, the children were given school supplies and toothbrushes, hats and lightweight wool mittens for cool weather and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for the warm December day; there were candy bars and healthy snacks galore, enough to fill a shopping bag or two, along with plenty of good cheer as each volunteer added another gift to a bag carried by a smiling child, with grins growing bigger upon hearing the words, “Merry Christmas.”
“Of all our charitable events including Paint Your Heart Out Tampa, Metropolitan Ministries, Make a Wish Golf Tournament, our Christmas Visit to Wimauma Elementary is the most touching. Being involved at this level and seeing each child’s smile makes this a special day for all of us,” said FRFCF Association President Linda Lamberson.
The FRFCF Association has organized and hosted the annual Christmas event for nearly two decades. Volunteers said that at Wimauma Elementary, they could feel the love and gratitude, they knew their gifts had meaning, as did the act of giving. Publix provided reusable bags for the children that were filled up with gifts from brands such as Hershey, Dole, Sara Lee, Sargento, Unilever, Wrigley’s, Smithfield, Weymouth Farms, Hostess, JelSert, Crunchmaster, Conagra and others.
Joining Santa and the volunteer elves in greeting the children were FRFCF Association mascot Shivers the Penguin and Sargento Cheese’s Mooreese the Cow. The event also included plenty of Christmas music and the singing of Christmas carols.
For more information about the FRFCF and their charitable events, visit www.coolfoods.org