If you arrived at Portola Kids on North Pine Street on Dec. 10, you would have found the director Lucie Kreth pulling a child’s tights, top and shoes out of the back of her stuffed SUV. Her husband stands beside her talking to an adorable 4-year-old child who is barefoot, dancing in the snow. “Don’t you know this isn’t summer, child?” he asks and then turns back with a grin, and says: “We adopted her!”
This haven for children has been the cause for a Christmas Project of Nakoma/Gold Mountain homeowners for over 12 years.
On this night, Portola Kids teachers decorated the hall, and set up tables, drinks and provisions for 50 kids and their families. Already at 5:15 p.m., people are gathering at tables and will wait another 45 minutes for a familiar feast provided by the homeowners and developer at Nakoma.This year, they will be served by Richard Aiple, the Nakoma manager, and eight Gold Mountain residents standing behind their homemade salads. They are the “elves” of this Christmas party named by this year’s organizer, Linda Peterson-St. Pierre.
Behind the scenes, the Gold Mountain community mailed in contributions to supply gifts for the children, the staff and the school. Meanwhile, Liz Maddalena, head teacher, pulls order out of chaos as she announces, “Food will be served, one table at a time!” Plates are filled to overflowing, some going on the floor. There are rarely leftovers. The attitude is: If you snooze you lose!
If you wait another 20 minutes you will hear the children singing all together followed by the teachers doing the same. As Santa appears, Liz hands out hand-picked gifts to each child and Santa calls their name. One little girl opens her gift, hugs it and cries.
Among all the noise and excitement there is a congeniality and appreciation. Parents thanked the Elves or walk up to Richard and give him a high five! One child walked through the food line looking terrified. Richard asks, “Want some lasagna?” The child is confused by the word and the food. Speaking for the child, a foster father said, “I think he would love that!”
Lucie Kreth has been a leader and now director for Portola Kids school for over 20 years.
In addition to raising funds for the facility, she is always looking for additional ways to help parents.
This is a party with noise and chaos, a great Nakoma meal, as well as singing for a Santa with presents. Can we open our doors and hearts to foster a child? Do we send a donation for the school building acquisition fund?
The statement, “This isn’t summer!” resonates as we pay attention to the children among us. Bring on the sunshine!
Want to read more about foster children and be touched to your core? Pick up “Sarah Lost and Found” by Virginia Castleman (a former foster child, now a creative writing teacher at Truckee Meadow Community College in Reno).