By ANGIE CARNATHAN
Mark Taylor, food and beverage manager of the Hilton Garden Inn, said the business is hosting its first ever Breakfast with Santa event Saturday from 8-11 a.m. to raise money to benefit The Clover Street Project.
Santa will be on location for photos and breakfast will be served. Event organizers encourage people to call and make reservations for one of three time slots: 8, 9 or 10 a.m. Pictures will be taken from 8:30-11 a.m.
Photos can be purchased for $10, and the buffet-style breakfast costs $5.95.
Taylor said Hilton employees wanted to do something to celebrate the holidays while helping out in the community. He said they were first discussing the idea of a breakfast with Santa, but wanted it to benefit a charitable organization as well.
“Everything just kind fell into place. We went out to the SKG Landscaping Christmas tree lot, where they’re selling trees for The Clover Street Project, so we stopped in and said we wanted help,” Taylor said. “They brought a tree out to the Hilton and set it up, and we’re going to have ... Breakfast with Santa to help them raise some money for Clover Street.”
Although the event is a fundraiser, Taylor said a few less-fortunate kids will have the opportunity to have breakfast and get their picture taken with Santa.
“A lot of kids have never actually gotten to do that,” Taylor said.
Freddie Bardley, who founded The Clover Street Project with his wife Sherrye, said they began the organization in 2003 because they noticed local children needed help.
“We saw that a lot of kids were going unnoticed,” Bardley said. “We started going out to the churches and the schools, just talking with the kids, but after a while it seemed like that just wasn’t enough.”
The couple hosted movie nights, taking children who wouldn’t get the chance otherwise, to the movies.
“After a while, we started adopting entire families, but since it was just me and my wife, we started to need more help,” Bardley said. “That’s when we started getting help from some local attorneys and other members of the community who, like us, wanted to help their neighbor.”
Bardley said he and his wife take donations of clothes and have yard sales throughout the year to raise funds for the organization.
Bardley works full time for the Starkville Police Department as a Master Officer. He said helping children is very close to his heart because of the direction his brother’s life took.
“My brother started hanging with the wrong kids and ended up becoming incarcerated,” Bardley said. “He used to always tell me, ‘If you don’t do anything else, at least let those kids know that going to jail is no joke.’ So I knew that if I could just help one child not go down that path, it would be worth all the effort.”
One goal of The Clover Street Project is to raise $2,000 to go toward two $1,000 scholarships that they give out each year to a deserving senior.
“We’re hoping to raise at least $1,000 at the Breakfast with Santa so that we can sponsor an entire scholarship,” Taylor said. “We just really believe that it’s our duty to help out our community, and we couldn’t think of a better way to do that than to help out the Bardleys and The Clover Street Project.”
Bardley said he is grateful for all the help The Clover Street Project has received this year.
“There are people out in the community that care, and businesses like the Hilton and SKG Landscaping are just two great examples of that,” Bardley said. “When we all work together we can help so many more kids.”
For reservations to Breakfast with Santa at the Hilton Garden Inn, please call 662-615-9664.