Bronxville Youth Council and Westhab Celebrate the Holidays


Amelia Grullon

As we can all look back on, March of 2020 completely rocked our world. All of our activities, traditions, and responsibilities moved into a digital world. For the Bronxville Youth Council and Westhab, this meant a significant change in how they worked together. Westhab is an organization leading our area in providing meaningful social services, programs, and affordable housing. For years, students of Bronxville have served as mentors to the Westhab children through monthly playgroups filled with activities. A pandemic meant that this tradition had to be moved onto Zoom. However, on December 11, 2021, Westhab and Bronxville were able to hold their first in-person playgroup in over a year, just in time to bring in the holidays. 

The event kicked off with several  activities for the kids- Action packed soccer and basketball games took place alongside building and holiday craft making. The excitement was certainly felt, and the children were elated to be back. I had the pleasure of sitting with Bronxville student Olivia Newton, along with our Westhab friends, Julia, Leslie, and Elier. Olivia is currently a sophomore, but has been involved with Westhab since the program went virtual in her freshman year. Over the course of a year, Olivia was able to forge an especially strong bond with Julia, Leslie, and Elier. This day was especially meaningful to them, as it was the first time that the friends were meeting in person. Even through a virtual experience, student volunteers still proved to be able to grow into amazing mentors, and physical boundaries did not block the forging of new friendships. 

The holiday festivities continued as volunteers opened up a table filled with presents. The children were able to come up and select a gift for their parents. It was truly heartwarming to see them selecting their gift with such care, making sure that what they gave their loved one was absolutely perfect. Of course, they did not leave without a visit from Santa, who brought them goodie bags filled with gifts that left them elated. Having the day’s fun come to an end was difficult, but a high note of gratitude still filled the room- this was going to be just the beginning of an amazing year with Westhab. 

Attending several of the virtual playgroups myself, I’ve been able to see just how strong the community is between Bronxville and Westhab. While crafts and kahoot games over zoom might not be the same as time spent in person, the laughs and passing conversations remain constant. Keeping any network together in the past year has proven to be challenging, but Westhab and the Youth Council have stepped up to the challenge. This return to “normal” has proven for this work to be long worth the wait. 

It was easy to see why this connection is so valued when I was shown how incredible the children are. They’ve shown kindness and gratitude that is beyond their years. When chatting with a group, I asked about what their top item on their Christmas list was. They all agreed that it was “to be happy with family.” As we enter the holidays, we should also make this something to want most- family and community are the greatest gifts of all.