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the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

YMCA Breakfast with Santa uplifts community

Aria Shaw
Joseph Richburg, (left) Jack and Jill of America member, as Santa, Kimberly Bell, Jack and Jill chapter president, as Mrs. Claus, at the Breakfast with Santa event on Dec. 9 at the Andrew and Walter Young YMCA in Southwest Atlanta

The Andrew and Walter Young YMCA and Jack and Jill of America hosted a breakfast with Santa on Dec. 9.

The YMCA, located at 2220 Campbellton Road, has been hosting a breakfast with Santa annually for over 20 years but took a brief pause during COVID for safety. The event lasted from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and had a variety of activities, including ornament making, pictures with Santa, breakfast, gifts for the kids, and a special storytime.

“To see the smiles on all of the kids’ faces — we have so many different kids with different backgrounds, but we’re always here to serve and we’re always [here to] make sure we have a foundation of love and make sure that these young scholars know that there are people out there that love them,” Andre Greenwood, the YMCA’s board chair, said.

The event mainly targeted children up to age 12 and their families. It was held on the ground floor of the multi-level building. The Greater Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter of Jack and Jill, one of the YMCA’s sponsors, was responsible for a majority of the planning and running of the event.

“We had at least … running into the event a meeting every two weeks or so that would last an hour and a half two hours, maybe,” Derrick Bell, event co-chair, said. “As we got closer to the event, we probably had meetings every week, sometimes a couple times a week, which would last another hour, hour and a half maybe, so, all in perhaps … twenty five hours, thirty hours, just on the meeting perspective.”

This was also a joint event between the mothers and fathers of Jack and Jill, which is a nationwide all African-American family organization.

“We also had the opportunity to meet with the early learning center director on several occasions, as well as the executive director of the YMCA,” Kawonza Jones-Wilson, event co-chair, said. “So, I would say between the Jack and Jill committee meetings and our committee meetings with our organizational partners it was probably well over 60 hours just in terms of meetings, not man power and mom power … we also did lots of informal text messages meetings.”

There are a multitude of other sponsors that this YMCA works with to continue to give back.

“We work with Jack and Jill,” board member James Hammond said.

Greenwood added, “Links, The App Promise Center, APS, 100 Black Men of Atlanta, it’s a ton of different organizations; it’s hard to pin down just a couple … We did some stuff with Verizon a few months ago … Goddard, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts.”

This YMCA, named after the civil rights leaders Andrew Young and Dr. Walter Young, has been a pillar and epicenter of its community for over 60 years. As one of the oldest YMCAs in Atlanta, many generations have grown up within its walls while the city grew and changed around it. It also houses the Maya Angelou Teen Center. Many of the Jack and Jill volunteers are ninth through twelfth graders.

“I look forward to coming to these events all the time to make sure because I actually grew up in this YMCA, so, as a little kid, I look back, and I look at the swimming pool over there I’m like ‘dang that’s where I learned how to swim,’” Hammond said.

Behind all of the hustle and bustle, this event was all about giving back this holiday season and bringing some cheer and joy into others’ lives.

“I really enjoyed it … it was really nice … my favorite part was taking pictures with Santa Claus,” Clyrinda Outlet said.

Outlet was also joined by another friend who attended with her family.

“My favorite part about it [the event] was when the kids took their picture with Santa Claus and the breakfast we had — a nice homemade breakfast … I love the event. I would love to be here next year,” Barbara Cooper, Outlet’s friend said.

The event will most likely be hosted again next year at the YMCA but until then, the YMCA also hosts a variety of other events like trunk or treats during Halloween or giving free turkeys during the Thanksgiving season.

“I so enjoyed working with the kids — great smiles great energy [and] so much fun, I’m just honored be asked to do this. I’ve always just done it [been Santa Claus] here for Jack and Jill … lots of smiles, lots of family time ,so I really enjoy it. I would do it again if they asked me to,” Joseph Richburg, who was Santa Claus, said. “We took at least 100 photos today [and] enjoyed every single child every single parent, grandparent even got in a couple times, so great fun.”

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    Rhonda SmithDec 12, 2023 at 5:41 pm

    Congratulations Aria on this accomplishment.