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Salvation Army seniors help local children, families get into holiday spirit
kids cocoa and crafts 1
Turlock resident Janet Cortez helps her 3-year-old son James Legg complete an art project at Friday's event. - photo by ALYSSON AREDAS / The Journal

No matter the age of each guest, the Salvation Army Senior Adults Learning Together program’s third annual Kids, Cocoa and Crafts event had something for everyone—whether it was crafts, Christmas baskets or companionship.

During the Friday event, children from Crowell Elementary School’s Head Start program got to eat cookies, drink hot chocolate and work together with local seniors to make their own holiday art project while their families received the opportunity to sign up for one of Turlock Together’s Christmas food baskets and toy donations.

Director of Senior Services Patti Ranes said that the S.A.L.T. program originally decided to host this event after Sandy Jones from the Head Start Program voiced her concern that parents were unaware of the food baskets provided by Turlock Together.

“She  thought if we could pair up some of our seniors with her students, and get their parents involved they would be more inclined to sign up for assistance with Christmas,” said Ranes. “We often try to pair the seniors up with some of the kids’ programs. They are often missing grandchildren and the children get to interact with the elder population.”

Ranes said that approximately 100 children and parents attended Friday’s event and 30 families signed up for one of Turlock Together’s Christmas baskets, which include enough food for at least three days, a board game and two toys for each registered child. 

Turlock resident Janet Cortez was one parent who brought her 3-year-old son James Legg to the annual Kids, Cocoa and Crafts program. While Legg munched on cookies—which he gestured to as his favorite part of the event—Cortez helped him decorate a foam Christmas tree with colorful jewels and stickers. 

“This is a benefit for him and other children to be engaged in social activities,” said Cortez. “Plus, I can tell that he really enjoys it. He is engaged and having fun.”

As a member of S.A.L.T., Hilmar resident Joann Barth made her rounds on Friday helping each child apply just the right amount of glue to their holiday crafts. Barth said that as a former teacher’s aide, she has enjoyed working with children and helping out at the event over the past few years.

“This really gets kids in the Christmas spirit in a fun way,” said Barth.

S.A.L.T. was established in 1996 to help seniors of Turlock find a Christian, friendly place to meet and enjoy activities. Members enjoy games, crafts, exercise and community service projects, as well as various support services, including help filling out forms or sending emails.

“The group was formed so that seniors had some place to go and be motivated to get out of their homes and exercise their minds, bodies and souls,” said Ranes.

For more information about S.A.L.T., call 667-6091.