Boys & Girls Clubs ‘Catch the Spirit’
by DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Dec 03, 2013 | 1050 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SMILING FACES and full bellies will be found at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland’s upcoming free events, which are open to the public.
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Area residents are invited to join the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland for their annual “CATCH the Spirit” Community Christmas Celebration Saturday and the Mel Bedwell Christmas Extravaganza Tuesday night.

Director of Operations Derrick Kinsey encouraged everyone to come out to the free events — especially those in need of a little extra holiday cheer.

“It is rewarding to be able to do it,” Kinsey said with a smile. “It is a lot more rewarding for us to do it than it is for them, actually.”

The two events have become massively popular in Cleveland. According to Kinsey, approximately 600 people attended the weekend Christmas celebration last year. He is hoping the number will increase this year.

He also said the Christmas extravaganza usually attracts 1,200 to 1,500 people.

While both events look to provide a friendly, cheer-filled experience for those in need, the atmosphere differs between the two.

Saturday’s Christmas celebration at the Tucker Unit on Third Street is purported to be the only “cruise-like” experience in town.

Kinsey said it is not the club’s intention to have those attending walk through a buffet line. They want a full spectrum experience — including entertainment, a sit-down meal and presents.

Each group will be made up of roughly 120 people. The first stop will be registration to allow the club to keep track of their numbers.

Then families, friends and individuals are invited to have their picture taken by a professional photographer. Kinsey said Nathan Ball Photography is donating its services for the event.

Guests will then be directed into the Performing Arts room. Nashville recording artist Ashley Strickland will entertain each group by herself and with the help of club members and staff. Forty minutes later will find the guests moving into the dining hall.

“There will be candle lights and tablecloths. They will tell the hostess how many are in their party before being directed to their table,” Kinsey said. “We will have a wait and drink staff and a dessert cart. They will order their food, which is prepared fresh, then they can grab coffee from the gourmet coffee table provided by He Brews.”

The last stop of the night will provide each family with a blanket, a gift for each child and the possibility of a coat or dry goods.

Kinsey said doors will open at 10:15 a.m.

Tuesday night’s Christmas extravaganza will take place at the BGCC Blythe Unit on Blythe Avenue. He described the event as controlled chaos.

The event began about 10 years ago at the Powers Unit. Only 40-50 members attended the first couple of years. The event has since gained enough in popularity to warrant a venue change. Doors will open at 5 p.m.

According to Kinsey, there will be trivia, raffles, games, Christmas elves, Santa Claus, a money machine, a live band, food, presents and more at the community event.

A highlight for many will be the North Pole room, where presents will be given to children.

“I think it helps relationships in the community,” Kinsey said of the two events. “I think it helps those in the community who may not have a lot, to have something and to have a great experience.”

He said a number of community partners made the two events possible, including Publix, Panera, Aubrey’s, Outback, United Way of Bradley County, Logan’s Roadhouse, Walmart, O’Charley’s, CATCH Ministries, Westwood Baptist, First Baptist, LH20, The Salvation Army of Cleveland, Whirlpool, Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden and Mount Olive Church of God.