Day of Kings brings joy to kids

Locals honor Three Kings Day with community service
By T Martin

“Toys and goodies” didn’t come on a sleigh for North Philadelphia children who received a special visit on Three Kings Day, celebrated January 6th at Centro Pedro Claver, located at 7th and Venango Streets.

Brightly costumed as the Three Kings that traveled to see the Baby Jesus after learning of his birth, Moises Suarez, Jorge Bermudez, and Khary Kirkland of the Boys and Girls Club brought bags of toys and novelty items to children of the Franklinville area. Children and their families sat in a circle at Centro Juan Antonio Corretjer, a neighboring community center, where the Three Kings delivered their goodies and brought smiles and giddy excitement to the faces of about 20 neighborhood children.

John Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club, located at 5th Street and Allegheny Avenue, said that this is only one of several projects youths at his center perform each year.

“Every year, we do three community service projects, and this is our second so far,” he told eagerly waiting children and parents.

Joy, joy, joy
Khary Kirkland of the Boys and Girls Club dressed as one of Three Kings and helped deliver goodies to children gathered in Centro Juan Antonio Corretjer on January 6th. Neighborhood children receive gifts and turn to share them with their friends around them. Sounds of glee and surprise made the project worthwhile for the young “kings” as they completed their second of three major community service projects for North Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Part of the project was education for the children who didn’t know the story of the Three Kings. Roger Zepernick, Executive Director of Centro Pedro Claver, the event’s host, asked children whether they knew what Three Kings Day is about.

“We get gifts!” shouted one child, eliciting echoes of laughter from some older adults. Children were explained the story of the Three Kings.

Community support
Parents, and even some grandparents, waited with children as they were told the story of the Three Kings before gifts were distributed. Their presence added a sense of support that is needed for community service, like this project, to happen. High school interns Gisa Rivera (far right) and Jennifer Ayala (second from right) work in Centro Pedro Claver’s after-school Homework Help Program; they helped carry bags of goodies to Centro Juan Antonio Corretjer.

Without much ado, Gonzalez introduced himself and his three kings before proceeding to distribute gifts among the children gathered to celebrate Three Kings Day with their neighboring community centers. Gonzalez and Zepernick stressed the importance of community service and its effects on making the neighborhood a better place for everyone to live and grow.

Foregoing the opportunity to talk about Three Kings Day or their own involvement with Centro Claver were high school interns Gisa Rivera and Jennifer Ayala, seniors at Nueva Esperanza Charter Academy. Both have been working at Centro Claver over the last weeks in the Center’s after school homework help program and were delighted at the chance to participate in Three Kings Day celebrations.

Humble acceptance
One little girl shyly accepts a gift from Moises Suarez during Three Kings Day celebrations at Centro Corretjer. Her quiet manner and bashful expression drew attention from other children despite the number of gifts they had also received. Here, her mother encourages her to say “thank you” in appreciation for the youths’ service project in Franklinville. Both gestures exemplify general attitude of the parents and children participating in the special event with the Boys and Girls Club.

Concluding the evening, Gonzalez promised a swift return to Centro Claver in time for another king-sized celebration – Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday Celebrations on January 19, 2004.

“We’ll be here; we’re just hashing out exactly what we’re going to do for the event,” he told NorFilly™ Online. Franklinville can expect another great Centro Claver production with the Boys and Girls Club for Dr. King’s birthday!

Additional Rewards
Jorge Bermudez (center) and Moises Suarez (right) hand special gifts to parents that came out to support their community service project for Three Kings Day.

Group effort
Representatives from Boys and Girls Club and Centro Pedro Claver stand together to make community service projects work to improve the quality of life for Franklinville’s neighbors.