FORT BELVOIR, Va. -Children at Fort Belvoir's Youth Services have been hard at work getting ready for the holiday season and all their hard work culminated in an event with Santa Claus last week for the installation's pre-school children.

This fall, they have been hard at work developing a large gingerbread house made entirely of recyclable materials.

The preschool children who attended the event were shown around the center, got their pictures taken with Santa Claus and had a chance to make ornaments to take home and put on their Christmas tree.

According to Assistant Director Marshall Barnes, the project was a rousing success.

"The entire house and surrounding landscape is made up of recyclable materials and we won an award with it," Barnes said. "We liked it so much that we didn't want to take it down yet and decided to go to the other youth centers on post and shuttle the young children over to see Santa Claus and participate in some arts and crafts.

"The event allowed our photography, technology and art club to have an opportunity to learn some new things by taking pictures and sending them out to the kids," Barnes said.

Parker Medley and Dominique Chambers, both 13, jumped headfirst into the project and really enjoyed working with the children.

"I really enjoyed helping the kids make their ornaments in the art room and showing them around the center," Parker said. "I think it really helped them get into the Christmas spirit and I know, for me, it helped to teach me responsibility and to help other people.

"It definitely helped me get ready for Christmas, as well," Parker said.

Dominique also helped to show the kids around and help them with the festivities.

"I helped them make snowflake, Santa and gingerbread ornaments and took pictures of their visits with Santa Claus," Dominique said. "It really makes the children happy because it is the time of year they get presents and it makes me feel great to see them when they're happy."

Barnes noted that the kids, especially Parker, were more than helpful with the children.
"Parker actually sat and waited with one child for 30 minutes before he would go sit in Santa's lap," Barnes said.

Drake Logsdon, 17, and a member of the Hired! program at the center. portrayed Santa this year and he admittedly was nervous with this being his first time.

"I was hesitant to take the job, but, in the end, I didn't want to disappoint the kids, because I remember going to see Santa when I was younger, as well," Logsdon said. "Sometimes, when you grow older, you forget how much it means to kids. When I got up there and that first child came up and you see the smile on their face, it is completely worth it," he said.

Barnes noted the event also allowed the installation's parents to see some of the things the center is doing to be a safer and more fun environment.

"The parents were able to get involved with this event and see the good things our kids are doing here at the new and improved center," Barnes said.

"My goal is to make this place the center everybody wants to come to for extracurricular activities," Barnes said. "I think events like this will help us to achieve that goal."