Bessie Carter Jackson helped two other adults, a daughter and granddaughter, corral the 11 children in her large family through the lines at Capitol Middle School’s lobby on Saturday.
The family was the 36th in line for Breakfast with Santa, an event put on every year by the Jack and Jill of America’s Baton Rouge Chapter. It’s been an ongoing tradition for the club for more than 30 years, said Vanessa Lafleur, president of the chapter, and a favorite for both patrons and chapter members alike, she said.
The event begins with a hot breakfast for all those in attendance, then moves to a photo with Santa Claus, then the line for bikes — which go to the first 300 or so children in line, and toys for the rest, Lafleur said.
While the families wait in line, tables keep everyone entertained with crafts, face painting and other goodies, said Katara Williams, spokesperson for the group.
“We’ve been doing this for a while, so we’ve learned some lessons over the years,” she said.
Williams’ son, Christian, 11, was also at the event volunteering, and he said it was, by far, his favorite event for Jack and Jill.
“I like seeing how happy the kids are,” he said. It’s one of many volunteerism opportunities the club provides for members.
The club is primarily a group of mothers, said Vice President Antoinette Patterson, who work together to find ways to make sure their children are exposed to culture, history and education, and give back to their community with philanthropy.
“We’re cultivating strong leadership in our children,” she said. “We have been blessed, and we want them to understand that when you are blessed with much, you have the responsibility to reach back and bring someone else up.”
Volunteers from Jack and Jill, their children, spouses and other volunteers from high schools all over the city coordinated efforts to keep the lines running smoothly, and everything did run smoothly, considering that 4,500 people would come through the lobby before they were done.
“It’s a big effort, but we always try to dream big,” Lafleur said. Their next big event will be an Easter Egg Roll. “The members don’t know that yet, but I’m announcing it now. We’re so excited about that.”
Volunteers from Southern Lab, Parkview and University high schools; the LSU National Association of Business Accountants; the Nubian Cruisers; Bernard’s and Louisiana Healthcare Connections helped coordinate the event, organized by Karen Thomas with Jack and Jill, who chaired the Breakfast with Santa committee.
Sponsors include All Star Automotive, Gordon McKernan and Associates, Apricot Lane, Subway — Kwame Atkins, Murray and Murray, Amerigroup, Clayton Law Firm, University High Football, Peak Performance, and Moms of Jack and Jill_BR.