Annual Friends First Christmas Party offers more than a meal

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ELKINS — Crafts, food, fellowship and fun were just a few of the things enjoyed by attendees of the 11th annual Friends First Christmas Party Tuesday night.

Randolph County Technical Center students par

tnered with the Northern West Virginia Center for Independent Living to throw the party for roughly 40 attendees with disabilities.

The students in the center’s Career and Work Skills Training (CWST) class collected money from classes throughout the technical center and used it to purchase gifts for the attendees. They also decorated and were able to get food donated by Kentucky Fried Chicken — one meal each for 50 to 60 individuals.

“The kids took care of everything. They raised the money, they got the food donated, they picked out the gifts and they wrapped the gifts,” CWST Teacher Denise Stalnaker said. “I went in the room, told them to decorate for the party and then left. When I came back a little bit later, the room was decorated.”

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NWVCIL Community Integration Specialist Brenda Dasher echoed those sentiments, saying the students were integral to the success of the party.

“The kids at the Technical Center pull it all together. They do everything,” Dasher said.

Attendees of the party had a great time across the board, including making Christmas tree and candy cane crafts. Karaoke also was available for anyone who wanted to sing festive holiday songs.

“I like being able to spend time with friends and visiting with everyone,” Jerry Hamrick said.

Charlie Wine has attended the party for several years and said he loved this year’s meal.

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“My favorite part is receiving the gifts and the food. The food was yabba-dabba-delicious!” Wine exclaimed.

Dasher said she believes the event is important to have each year because it gives everyone a chance to visit with friends over the holiday season.

“This party is important because a lot of these people don’t have a lot of family or friends,” Dasher said. “They get to come and enjoy time with people who live in the same apartments as them and participate in a lot of the same activities.”

Stalnaker added this event benefits the students in the class by giving them an opportunity to help others.

“This gives the students an opportunity to do something like this that they may not have gotten to do otherwise,” Stalnaker said.

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