Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Florence kids a little warmer this season



By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FLORENCE - A few children at Florence Elementary School wore their coats in the hallways Tuesday. The coats were Christmas gifts from the community, and the children were too excited to take them off.

"Ms. Zimmer, I'm still wearing my coat!" one said to Rose Zimmer, director of the school's family resource center.

Monday, Zimmer helped arrange for 30 children to attend a special Christmas dinner and celebration at Potter's Ranch, a youth and family ministry in a wilderness retreat setting in Boone County. Every year, the nonprofit ranch provides gifts, dinner, hayride and a story about Christ's birth to youngsters who need a boost around the holidays. The children are referred by social service agencies; the gifts are donated by businesses and ranch supporters.

This year, 30 youngsters came from the elementary school, and another 15 were referred by the Florence Police Department and Centro de Amistad, a Catholic agency serving Hispanic immigrants. The 15 immigrant children didn't make it to Monday's celebration, however, so Florence police took their gifts to them Tuesday.

Zimmer called the celebration at Potter's Ranch "exceptional." Each child received a coat and a personally wrapped gift. They ate dinner with silverware, china and linens, and sat around a fire to listen to the Christmas story.

And the long bus ride to the retreat only added to the children's anticipation.

E-mail kgutierrez@enquirer.com




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