The holiday spirit was everywhere you looked Saturday in the halls of North Rowan High School. It was in the sounds of the holiday music from a local choir. It was in the faces of the student volunteers. It was in the hearts of the families they served.
The fourth-annual Cavalier Christmas is an effort by North Rowan High School to reach out to this already close-knit community. The North PTA, along with five community organizations, came together to provide a brighter Christmas for 270 children who attend North Rowan Elementary, Hanford Dole Elementary and North Rowan Middle schools.
Altogether, some 50 North students, 20 parents and community helpers, and seven teachers and staff members accumulated 2,000 hours of volunteer time — in one day!
“That doesn’t even count all the preparation,” noted Jill Lentz, who coordinated the event, “but it was worth it all when we saw all those little smiling faces. We had a blast!”
Lentz’s entire family participated in the day, including her husband, Greg, president of Hearts With Hands Ministries; their daughter Alyce, who will soon join her father in his work; and their son, Henderson, a sophomore at Catawba College.
“This is family,” Henderson said of his alma mater. “It’s home. That’s one reason I wanted to stay around — to be involved and help build this community. There’s a lot of people who are hurting. Some people are not blessed with great days. To be a blessing to people, just for one day, makes a difference.”
Hearts With Hands partnered with North’s PTA. Also participating were Calvary Baptist Church, New Hope Baptist Church, Oakdale Baptist Church, and Man Up Monday.
The morning began with a program in auditorium featuring excerpts from New Hope’s Christmas program. Then, it was on to lunch in the cafeteria, hosted by Calvary Baptist. Sam Mills, New Hope’s youth pastor, and Pastor Scott Faw of Calvary Baptist both assist with North’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes club, Lentz said.
After lunch, children played games set up by the Math Department and hosted by North’s varsity cheerleaders, Student Government Association members, and girls’ and boys’ varsity basketball players. The children could receive a number of prizes — including bikes and toys — that had been donated. Each family also went home with a box of food provided by Hearts With Hands.
Man Up Monday donated $500 toward gifts. The North PTA provided $100 for gifts and the cadre of volunteers, organized by teachers Natalie Benfield and Dana Jordan. The Dickie Stoner family donated $100 to gifts and volunteered.
Seven members of the school’s ROTC program — four of whom served in the color guard earlier that morning — directed guests around the school, looking sharp in their uniforms.
“I did color guard this morning and just decided to stay and help,” said senior Jalen McGee. “It means a lot and I know it’s gonna help a lot. It gets me out and gives me something to do.”
Sophomore Evan K., who also served on the color guard senior Deon F. and sophomore Terrance S., agreed. “I was already here. I thought, why not help out and give a hand?”
And that’s exactly what his mom, Cherie did, too.
“My boy was in color guard,” she said. “If I’m here, I gotta help. How can you not love Cavalier Christmas?”
She was on her way to help give out presents.
Lentz and the other organizations took care of every aspect of Cavalier Christmas, said Principal Meredith Williams. “I only had to turn on the heat this morning.”
Despite Saturday’s chilly temperatures, the event certainly warmed Williams’ heart.
“This is the essence of the North Rowan family and its community spirit,” she said. “We support each other when there are needs, we find ways to provide for one another, and we love one another.”
That’s why Lentz and the other volunteers participated this year, as in years past.
“Last year, we saw these two little boys leaving,” she said. “They looked like they were about 6 and 8, and they looked like brothers. The older boy said, ‘Buddy did you have fun today?’ The younger child said, ‘It was a great day.’ The older boy told him, ‘Well, Buddy, you need to always remember that today was a great day.’
Lentz continued, “That’s what motivates us. There’s no reason for us not to pull our resources together and make the season great for these children. It’s not about one race or another. It’s not about one gender or another. We are a family. Diversity has done nothing but make this group of children stronger and ready for the real world.
“This is about loving people who may not be just like you.”