BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Students are Richardson elementary got a special visit on the last day of school before the holiday break.
A parent, and book consultant from Fort Madison, played elf to Santa on Friday morning at the Fort Madison school, giving gifts of books and plush toys to students throughout the school.
Harley Hoenig, who has an autistic child at the school, had an idea to provide some Christmas spirit for the kids in the autistic program, but quickly realized that many of the students could benefit from a little extra holiday cheer and expanded her program to all the students at the school.
As a consultant for Usborne Books & More, Hoenig thought it would be a great gift idea to give a book and one of the toys to each student in the autism and behavioral classes. She said the school has done so much for her 3-year-old son Max, that she wanted to give back. The company she sells books for, Usborne Books & More, has a matching program that enables consultants to do book drives.
“A big part of who I am is to give back when I have a chance to. When I joined Usborne I had an amazing opportunity to give back with the company’s 50% match grant,” she said.
“I chose Richardson because they have been so wonderful in helping my son Max and I wanted to say Thank You in a big way.”
Beginning at about 9 a.m., Hoenig, with her brother Danny Douglas, went with the jolly man in the red suit, to visit every classroom in the building, some just separated by partitions. Many of the students jumped from their seats to get a hug with Santa….even some teachers took a turn.
Each student was given a paperback reader and the regular admonition to be good and help with chores at home in exchange for a possible visit early Christmas morning with gifts under the tree.
Hoenig and Douglas handed out the books, while Santa accepted hugs and took a few questions from the students. Hoenig said it was a peer at the book company that opened her to the idea.
“Someone that works with me brought to my attention about the match grant. I’d never heard of it done here independently before,” she said. “At first I was just going to do a book and a plush toy for the autism and behavioral classes, and the more I thought about it, I thought it would be super neat to donate a book for every child. but I still wanted to do something special for those behavior classes, so that’s why I decided to do the plush toys for them.”
Hoenig said she hopes to continue giving to the community and would like to expand the program to Lincoln Elementary and some other facilities, such as libraries and day care centers, because she said education is the key to children’s futures.
“I plan to keep giving to the community through Usborne. At some point I plan on doing something with the other elementaries as well, but I’d also like to other organizations such as day cares, libraries and even families. We can do book drives and give through Usborne,” she said.
“I think education is very important for children and there’s no better way to set them up for success than to get books in their hands.”