ALBANY -- The frequently displayed warm smile of Radium Springs Elementary School Principal Gail Griffin greeted students and families Wednesday afternoon.
The excited children were eager to return to their school during their holiday break as 30 students and their families who were selected by teachers had their Christmas wishes fulfilled by Tara Foods, its vendors and local merchants.
It was the seventh year Tara Foods has provided Christmas needs for Radium Elementary students and loved ones. Rob Jacobs, Tara Foods' production assistant, said the funds for the company's generous gifts came from the Teeing for Tots golf tournament at Grand Island County Club in October. Jacobs said 100 golfers competed in this year's tourney.
"We supply food, clothing, toys and educational items," said Joe Frazier, shift and sanitation manager at Tara Foods. "Kids fill out a wish list and we try to fill it, just like if you send it to Santa Claus."
Jacobs and Frazier, along with co-workers Yolanda Daniels, Jackie Curtis, Roderick Ross and Margarette Brown, helped distribute the Tara Foods donations in the school's library.
"It's great," Daniels said of being part of the Tara Foods team that handed out the wishes. "It's always great to give to people who don't always get to have a great Christmas. It's not necessarily the material gifts we give to the kids, it's the gift of happiness we give the kids."
Third-graders Max Alsaqaf and Isaiah Williams were thankful for their gifts.
"It's really nice because our school never gives us toys like that," Max said.
Isaiah said the presents meant a lot to him, too.
"I'm going to have a Christmas this year, and I'm going to share my toys and gifts with my brother," he said.
Veronica Collins, who attended the event with her three children, said Tara Foods' generosity was appreciated.
"It's a blessing," she said. "We did this last year as well, and it's truly a blessing."
Thomas Drawdy also was at the event with his three children.
"It definitely helps out in these hard times," he said. "(My son, Thomas) was looking forward to a skateboard for a long time, and we can play some games (we received) together."
Keith Kinchen and Tiffany Sinclair were at the wish distribution ceremony with their twin second-grade daughters, Makiyah and Kaniyah.
"Not many families can afford what they're providing," Keith Kinchen said. "We're very blessed to be one of the families chosen and are very appreciative."
Fifth-year Radium Springs Principal Griffin said the Tara Foods Christmas donations to the families helped the school fulfill its overall mission.
"When you look at our Title I distinguished school (status) and the fact that more than 80 percent of our students receive free or reduced lunch, that in and of itself (shows) that parents need our help," she said. "Children need to know that there are community members that are willing to support their parents and them in their total development.
"There is a true need (here)," she continued. "What we're trying to relay is, even though there's a challenge there (for these families) with economics, the children are intelligent. Therefore, Tara Foods' assistance in this says we 'believe in you and we're willing to support you when it's needed'."