On Dec. 8, members of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Pi Omega Chapter delivered 40 brand new bikes to the AFRO headquarters as part of the Ms. Santa program.
The Ms. Santa program is organized by the AFRO’s own Ms. Santa, Diane Hocker. Hocker also serves as the director of Community and Public Relations for the newspaper. The collaboration between the Omegas and Ms. Santa began when Hocker took the reins of the program 16 years ago.
“What a blessing! For over 80 years, the AFRO has been making happy memories for children during the holiday season,” Hocker said. “There is nothing like waking up on Christmas morning and seeing a bike under the tree for you.”
Over the life of the program, Ms. Santa has served thousands of families in the region. The program is made possible through cash and gift donations from individuals and organizations, like this year’s sponsor the Thurgood Marshall Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI), throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area. Hocker said she has been collecting gifts and donations since October to prepare for this year’s Ms. Santa program. This year Ms. Santa looks to help over 75 children celebrate the holidays.
To help assist in the gathering of toys and donations, Larry Young and The Larry Young Morning Show from Radio One’s WOLB station will be on site and broadcasting live at the AFRO headquarters on Dec. 10. Young will be calling on all listeners to help make a child’s holiday even brighter by donating either toys or money to Ms. Santa, this holiday season. Ms. Santa will be on site and on air with Young during his radio show. Parents and children will come to the AFRO to pick up their gifts for the holiday and any surplus will go to local churches and shelters, to help those most in need.
“We at the AFRO extend out thanks to all those who supported Ms. Santa by making donations or hosting toy drives, so that the AFRO can help provide a Merry Christmas for numbers of children across the city,” Hocker added.
The AFRO is currently celebrating its 125th Anniversary. The yearlong celebration includes the Ms. Santa program, the Clean/Green Block campaign, the Character Education initiative and a host of other events throughout the year. The celebration culminates with a 125th Anniversary Gala next August.
“Being Ms. Santa for the past 16 years has been such a joy,” Hocker said. “Seeing the kids’ faces and the parent’s gratitude makes all the work worthwhile. And knowing that I’m continuing a legacy that extends back over 80 years, it’s an honor, privilege and delight to be a part of this AFRO history.”