NAPLES — More than 100 local children got the chance to eat pancakes, sausage and scrambled eggs with Santa Claus on Saturday morning at North Naples United Methodist Church.
“I came to have breakfast here and play some games and do some crafts and to see Santa,” said Andrew Foley, 8, who goes to church at North Naples Methodist.
“I’m still thinking about that,” Foley said when asked what he wanted to tell Santa. “I don’t really know yet.”
Some of the church’s 205 youth group members wore Santa hats, cooked breakfast and ran the entire event, which was geared toward younger children and their families.
“I came because of Santa,” said Abigail Ponton, 10. “It’s a good time to enjoy time with your family and friends.”
Besides cooking and serving breakfast, youth group members organized all the activities, which included Christmas card making, face painting, pictures with Santa, Christmas bingo and noodle tag.
“We have a group of parents that get together on a regular basis to think of ideas of ways the youth can get together to do (community) outreach as well as to bring in funds to run the (youth) ministry,” said Tim Evans, youth pastor at the church located at 6000 Goodlette-Frank Road.
“We have Friday night and Sunday night youth group for junior and senior high (school students), and it does cost some money to fund those” because free food is provided to all the participants.
The youth group members, which includes middle school and high school students, arrived at the church at 7 a.m. to start cooking and setting up for the event that ran from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Tables set up in the church’s Community Center, or gym, were filled with families and friends eating and having a good time.
“They’re really cute, and they look up to you when you help them out,” Livvy Crissman said of working with the children. “They’re going to be a part of the youth group someday, so we want to kind of help them,” said 14-year-old Crissman, a youth group member who was bussing the tables.
Breakfast cost $5 per person and pictures with Santa were an additional $2. All the money raised will go toward the church’s youth ministries and future mission trips that the church youth will be taking during the summer such as a trip to the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home.
The home, on Lake Monroe in Florida, provides a sanctuary for children who have experienced traumatic events such as the death or illness of a parent, sexual or physical abuse and neglect.
Kaylee Smith, a 13-year-old youth group member, said she enjoyed listening to what the younger children had to say while she was helping them.
“They are actually really creative, and they can catch on to things fast,” she said.
Many students from the church’s in-house school, The Village School, attended the event, which was open to the public.
“We try to find things that the youth can do service wise for the community in the area,” Demczak said. “So the youth will be the ones doing all the work. They’re going to cook the breakfast with the chef, and they’re going to serve it, set it up and clean it up.”
Mazur Manzanares, 6, received a blue and white snowflake painted on his cheek. “I like blue and green,” Mazanares said of his decision to go with the snowflake. “I wanted to see Santa,” he said when asked why he came to the event. Mazur’s brother, Maddox, 4, received a snowman painted on his cheek, and he said he asked Santa for Legos and Wolverine, Captain America and Black Spiderman costumes.
“It’s fun to paint all the little kids’ faces,” said Claire Shoults, 13, who was a youth group member. Shoults said her favorite design to paint was the snowman, which was also the most popular.
“They get really excited when they’re done, and they get a big smile.”
E-mail Sarah Donovan at firstname.lastname@example.org