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Rotary Club of Clarence helps refugee families celebrate the holidays

BY: Kaitlin Fritz, Metro Source | December 06, 2012

by Kaitlin Fritz

Clarence Source

The Rotary Club of Clarence focuses on serving the community and for the holidays, the members do what they can to help local needy families by hosting the annual Rotary Children’s Christmas Party.

Diane Cortese came up with this idea when her husband was the president of the Rotary Club of Clarence.

What began 19 years ago as a party that benefitted 20 children has now grown to help 50 to 60 children enjoy the holidays with gifts and celebration.

“I’ve been a volunteer for all these years and I hear of so many people in need and we’re just so blessed here and we always want to try to give back,” said Cortese.

The past few years, Reaching Out to Africa has been the organization that has benefitted from this event and will again this year.

Reaching Out to Africa is an outreach ministry that was created by Reverend Ronald Sajdak of St. Martin De Porres church. This refugee relief organization assists refugees in the African community with their move to Buffalo and helps them settle in to living an American life.

These families are still adjusting to the changes in their lives and many of them won’t be able to afford to celebrate the holidays as many others do.

The rotary club invites these African refugee children and their parents to the party to enjoy pizza, games, crafts, face painting and even a visit from Santa.

Large stockings, donated by the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Clarence, will be full of toys, hats, mittens, candies, gifts and gifts cards for the children and their families.

The stockings were passed throughout the congregation and filled with donations for the party.

“It’s something that is specifically focused for them and kids at that age get so excited,” said Joan Ersing, executive director of Reaching Out to Africa. “I think even beyond the children, the parents are so overwhelmed that there is a group that wants to do something just for them.”

This afternoon celebration will be held on Dec. 16. Members of the Rotary Club of Clarence are welcome to come and see the children’s faces light up with joy when they receive their gifts.

Donations for the party are welcome from anyone who is willing to donate. If you’d like to make a donation, call Cortese at 759-2609.

She said anything that anyone wants to donate can be put to good use and would be greatly appreciated not only by the club, but also the children and families as well.

“The fact that they do this is absolutely amazing,” said Ersing. “They do wonderful things for us and they get the immediate affirmation because the kids are right there and you can see their happiness. It’s a good thing to do and we appreciate it very much.”

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