By James Cullum
Christmas came early this year for more than 1000 children who live in public housing in Alexandria. On Tuesday night, the children who live in property owned by the Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority, were bussed to the Charles Houston Recreation center to visit Santa’s Winter Wonderland.
“In two days we built, from a pile of plywood, a replica of Old Town,” said Chaba Josa, ARHA director of facilities and modernization. “This year we had City Hall and townhouses. All of the structures are demountable, so we can rebuild this next year. The plan is to add the King Street train station next year and then the Masonic Temple the year after that,” all inside the gymnasium.
The scene was picturesque. While the Alfred Street Baptist Church Handbell Choir played “The Little Drummer Boy”, children chose one present from more than 1000 toys. From 5:30 to 9:00 p.m., lines of families waited to take their picture with Santa. Every child was given a plush toy and chose one gift for themselves. Traditional toys like footballs and baseball bats were plentiful, but so were Mp3 players, gift cards, DVD’s and video games like Guitar Hero.
Akiti Taylor, 10, got what he wanted for Christmas. “I might grab a football or a basketball because I play both sports,”he said. Taylor went home with both.
Amarlie Leake, 1, was wide-eyed when she saw Santa Claus. “This was great. She’s gonna pick out a teddy bear and then we’ll find some kind of educational toy,” said her mother, Tamicka Leake.
Roy Priest, ARHA’s executive director was pleased with the party.”This event is to show the spirit of Christmas and to share the holiday season with our residents,” he said. “We want to tell them that we appreciate them.”
ARHA’s partners who made the party possible included the Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office, Toys For Tots and Eakin Youngentob Associates.