All 120 preschoolers at Dasher Green Head Start in Columbia will feel the warmth of the holiday season this entire winter, thanks to the Howard Hurricanes Connect Team, a group of 20 Sandy Spring Bank employees and sales partners.
The warmth came in the form of new coats, and perhaps a nice, cozy feeling that someone cared enough to give them presents.
That “someone” was really the Howard Hurricanes Connect Team. Some of its members arrived at Dasher Green with coats in tow on December 5. In six separate classrooms, Sandy Spring Bank employees handed each preschooler a gift bag containing a coat bought specifically for that child.
Most of the 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds had no idea what their gift was until it was opened. One by one, each child pulled his or her new coat out of a gift bag. And when they did “their faces lit up,” noted Gwen Atkins, a teacher in one of the classrooms.
“They didn’t want to take off their coats,” stated Karen Trendler, Vice President and Relationship Manager for Sandy Spring Bank and captain of the team.
One preschooler loved her gift because it was “sparkly.” Another commented that her wardrobe addition was “fashionable.” A young boy expressed delight that his coat had camouflage colors.
While the children look forward to feeling toasty when the temperature dips, the adults who delivered the coats left with their own warm, fuzzy feeling. Seeing the children’s joy was “heartwarming,” acknowledged Tim Kelley, a member of the team.
This was not the first time the Howard Hurricanes Connect Team bestowed generous gifts on Head Start students in Howard County.
Last year, the team donated coats to all 60-some preschoolers at the Old Cedar Lane Head Start. That effort got off the ground when Mr. Kelley asked a Head Start staff member what Sandy Spring Bank could do for its students, and the response was to give them coats. Mr. Kelley has been a regular supporter of the Community Action Council of Howard County (CAC) in numerous roles over the years, including serving on its Audit and Finance Committee, but he wanted to do more. CAC oversees numerous services for low-income families, including the four Head Start centers in the county.
“The children were so excited and appreciative that we immediately decided to do it again this year,” commented Mrs. Trendler. The team settled on Dasher Green Head Start because it had more students than the other three Head Start centers in Howard County.
The team donated earnings they had accumulated collectively from sales contests to pay for the coats. “We could have spent it on fun activities for ourselves, but unanimously decided to use the funds to help kids again,” stated Mrs. Trendler.
The magical moments created by the team’s generous spirit didn’t spring out of thin air – it took work. Mrs. Trendler and another member of the team, Marla Harrison, ordered the coats online in the various sizes and genders that Head Start staff had provided. Efforts were made to order as many different colors and patterns as possible to minimize the number of duplicates, according to Mrs. Trendler. A few coats were bought at brick-and-mortar stores to obtain some that were not available online and to accommodate recently enrolled students.
After obtaining the coats, the team sorted them and placed them into holiday gift bags at the Sandy Spring Bank in Columbia. Each bag was labeled with a child’s name, classroom, gender, age, and size. Then 13 members of the team had the joy of distributing the coat-filled bags to Dasher Green students. The end result – 120 young Head Start students will have a source of warmth to weather whatever Old Man Winter throws their way during the next few months.