In December of 2014, counselors from Central Middle School (CMS) reached out to United Way of Muscatine (UWM) about holding a special holiday event for at-risk students. The counselors proposed that teachers could adopt a student to give a gift to and that UWM could give each student a gift also. UWM took them up on the offer, using money from the Kids First Fund to sponsor the event. They also partnered with Geneva Country Club to cater the event.
In its second year, the UWM Holiday Party spread to West Middle School (WMS) as well, doubling the number of students who could participate in it. As the number of students participating grew, Geneva Country Club offered to host the meal on sight, offering students the experience of a three-course meal as well.
Now a well-established tradition, UWM’s party provides an unforgettable experience for all the students selected to attend it. Jonathan Schreiner, a counselor at WMS shared, “they enjoy the overall experience. . .. They get to learn something (we go over table etiquette) and they obviously love the gifts.”
Muscatine High School counselor Troy Kulland (who previously worked at CMS) added, “I love the fact that we get to give kids something they otherwise wouldn’t get. . .. They wouldn’t necessarily get a meal like this for the holidays.”
This year’s UWM Holiday Party took place on Wednesday, December 11th. When students arrived, they enjoyed a full lunch with all the fixings. Afterwards, each student got a chance to speak with Santa and Mrs. Claus who passed out gift bags, courtesy of Bayer. Before students left, each got three gifts, as well as smaller goodies provided by Flowers on the Avenue.
Students from both Muscatine middle schools made memories they will not soon forget of this year’s UWM Holiday Party. Blessing Wright, an eighth-grade student at CMS shared she most enjoyed, “the ice cream and the cookie [for dessert]. It was sweet—it was delicious actually!”
For Marie Morton, an eighth grader at WMS, getting to eat in Geneva Country Club’s dining room made her day. “It is gorgeous here!” she said. “I’ve never been somewhere like this before.”
Morton’s friend Katelyn Hopkins, also an eighth grader at WMS, loved, “everything!” about the day, and simply felt glad she could attend.
By hosting the annual UWM Holiday Party, UWM Program Manager Nichole Sorgenfrey hopes to show students a good time and to inspire the two to have big goals for the future. In particular, Sorgenfrey likes, “giving these children the opportunity to have a good dinner . . . and to have this is a dream, that they could go far and have more nice dinners.”
The 2019 UWM Holiday Party helped provide a happy holiday experience for fifty-five middle school students this year. With continued support from the Kids First fund and UWM’s community partners, they look forward to keeping this tradition thriving and serving students for many holiday seasons to come.