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Head Start program delivers Christmas cheer


A local family helped ensure a merry Christmas for kids in need by organizing donations of more than two dozen new bikes alongside other gifts for the WJCC Community Action Agency’s Head Start program.

Lenny Vawter, a father and the “head coach” in charge of the Williamsburg Nike Factory Store, said he was inspired by his childhood, when he looked forward to Christmas presents each year yet acknowledged that not every kid can be so fortunate.

“I just couldn’t fathom waking up and not having something there,” he said. “It’s something that’s always inspired me.”

It’s a consideration he now hopes to instill in his own children and perhaps the larger community as well. He and his family mobilized relatives as well as friends in their neighborhood, his Nike store and Here for the Girls, an organization serving breast cancer survivors where his wife, Vicki, works. Social media also helped spread the word.

The Vawters were already familiar with the nonprofit community action agency, which services various people in need of assistance such as adults whose homes need weatherization to cut down on energy costs and preschoolers, the focus of its Head Start program. For the Christmas effort, children shared wishlists declaring favorite characters, hobbies, clothing needs and more for the donors to consider.

The family’s efforts resulted in donations of 25 bikes; at the Toano Auto Zone, manager Eric White and his team assembled the bikes for the kids. Christmas bags overflowing with wrapped gifts also filled the agency’s office.

“There are great people in this world who want to help,” Vawter said. “By doing that, maybe we can provide a little hope for those kids.”

A total of 48 Head Start children took their presents home Thursday — and yes, they’re waiting until the big day Monday to open them.

“Some kids really won’t have Christmas unless something like this happens,” said Elizabeth Callan, the agency’s director of fund development. She recalled one little girl showing up for her bag of presents, shy yet smiling as she scribbled a “thank you” note for those who helped make for a memorable Christmas.

The program caps off a successful holiday season for the agency, which collected nearly 4,000 pounds of food for 600-plus families. Callan said it’s all a testament to the caring community of the Williamsburg area.

“It’s such an amazing place,” she said.

For 48 kids, that’s more clear than ever.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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