Dec. 23, 2004 For the children of the Nana-Baby Children's Home, Christmas came two days early, but no one seemed to mind.
Santa didn't come down a chimney to bring their gifts, but he appeared on command as they yelled for him to appear while singing Christmas carols.
Spirits were high and joy filled the air in the ballroom of the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Hotel Thursday as the Rotary Club of St. Thomas hosted its annual Christmas Party for the foster children from noon to 2 p.m.
The children of the Nana-Baby Home, a foster childcare center for children from infancy to age 13, were oblivious to everything else going on in the world as they partied with their Rotarian friends.
Broad smiles were on the faces of the 20 children in the group as they feasted on macaroni and cheese, fried chicken and "delicious" desserts; received presents from Santa; and sang carols at the tops of their lungs.
L.J. Mayfield, 14, and a former Nana-Baby Home resident, said he loves to come to the Rotary Club Christmas Party on its behalf each year although he no longer lives at the home.
"I love mainly the food," Mayfield said, as he waited patiently to enter the buffet line.
Rotary members helped the little ones to carry their plates to the table, as the older children waited their turns.
Rotarian John Foster Sr. smiled as he assisted a young boy in cutting his chicken leg into bite-sized pieces. Foster, who founded John Foster Real Estate, is the coordinator of the Nana-Baby Home Project. He started the project in 1989, the same year the center was opened in Mariendahl.
"I was developing some land in Mariendahl when I noticed a group of little kids standing around watching," Foster said. Foster said he asked one of the young children where they lived and the child took him to Louise Larcheveaux-Ali, founder of the Nana-Baby Home and vice president of the Region II Chapter of the National Foster Parent Association.
"Louise was taking care of the kids, many of whom had been abandoned by their parents," Foster said. "I thought she was doing a great service to the community, so I brought the matter to the club."
Foster was influential in getting the club to sponsor the home, and after a few years the organization helped to move the center to its new location in Estate Tutu.
"We've had this party every year since," Foster said. "We support the children by helping Louise with whatever she needs."
The Rotary Club of St. Thomas has also honored Ali with its highest award for her service, the Paul Harris Fellow Award.
As Ali looked at the happy faces surrounding her Thursday she smiled.
"The kids look forward to [the party]," she said. "I'm glad because it really does a lot for the kids, and they feel real special."
Ali said she founded the home because she felt "it was my calling." She added the name of the center is in honor of her mother, whom she affectionately called "Nana."
In addition to the party, the Rotary Club of St. Thomas also purchased the center a 27-inch television and painted the exterior of its building.
Club President Don Chandler said, "It's always a joy to get the kids out here and help them in this way."
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