Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 21, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Spirit

Dec 12, 2012
Santa Claus hears Itati Hernández recite her Christmas wish list during the Parents as Teachers holiday party at the Washington Mennonite Church Tuesday. Hernández is the daughter of Juan and Catalina Hernández.

The Parents as Teachers (PAT) organization threw a holiday party for children in the Washington Mennonite Church Tuesday night. The children went from room to room, engaging in various Christmas-related activities such as singing songs, making Christmas cookies and sitting on Saint Nick’s lap.
Becky Widmer of PAT led the singing and storytelling, which she complemented with a guitar.
“I usually lead the singing,” Widmer said. “We do stories, songs and finger plays (acting out stories with one’s hands). Some of the kids come to playgroup, so they’re used to me reading to them and singing to them. I always sing with the kids that I visit, too.”
Carol Detweiler of PAT said there were 95 persons who attended the party, not including the volunteers. She said this was the eighth year the PAT has put on a holiday party. The parties were originally held at the Mennonite Church but later moved to the United Methodist Church. This year marked a return to holding the event at the Mennonite Church.
In one of the rooms, children made Santa masks using a paper plate with holes cut out for eyes. They colored the masks and glued cotton balls on them to represent Santa’s beard.
The children were allowed to decorate cookies with a wide variety of colored frostings and sprinkles. PAT also gave the kids snacks such as cupcakes, cheese and pretzels in the shape of reindeer.
Roberta Sloat, program coordinator of PAT, said the organization sought to provide a welcoming environment for families who want to enjoy the holidays.
“We want to give them lots of things to do so that it’s a fun activity,” she said. “We like families to see they can have a lot of fun together doing crafts, singing or making cookies. They can also have their picture taken with Santa Claus.”
Sloat’s husband, Darien, is a good friend of Santa’s. He’s known Santa for three to four years.  
“The parents like having a Santa who is not trying to rush the children through a line,” she said. “They like a Santa who is really patient.”
Juan Hernández brought his 3-year-old daughter, Itati, to the holiday party.
“This is great for the kids,” he said. “It’s good they can start learning about Christmas at a young age. I’ve seen some babies here, even.”
Hernández said his daughter has gotten into the Christmas spirit by making a wish list for her parents. He said she wants a horse after seeing one on an episode of the PBS television show, “Curious George.”
Hernández said his daughter has been in PAT for the past two years. An employee of PAT comes to his home to work with his daughter on educational activities. He said he has seen marked progress in his daughter’s development because of PAT.
Hernández also said that he was pleased at the turnout for Tuesday’s holiday party.
“Most of the time when I come to events, there are five to eight people, but there are a lot of people this time,” he said. “That’s great because the more people who come to the party, the more people will continue with the program.”
Mark Gingerich was one of several volunteers who helped with the holiday party. Gingerich was in charge of supervising the station where the children colored pictures of reindeer.
“I think the Parents as Teachers program is a very valuable asset to the community,” he said. “The benefits are felt not only by the children and parents, but the community as a whole. The volunteers benefit from the interaction as well.”
PAT is a family education and support program for children ages 0 to 42 months. The program also offers prenatal services to expectant mothers. The program’s six parent educators visit families in their home to help them improve their child’s development. Parents who are interested in enrolling their child in the PAT program can call 461-9007.

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