QUINCY — The Quincy Exchange Club hosted Quincy and Mendon students who are deaf and hard of hearing at its meeting Friday for an annual holiday tradition considered a club favorite.
After opening remarks from Exchange Club president Erik Dolieslager, Art Awerkamp introduced Kate Sanders from the Quincy Public Schools. Sanders has taken over the stewardship for the deaf and hard of hearing program for QPS. Awerkamp presented a check for $1,000 to the program on behalf of the Exchange Club.
“Back in August, our students and our staff started asking if we were going to do the Exchange Club program again,” Sanders said.
Sanders noted that the time during the pandemic has been a challenge above and beyond the hurdles for some other students for those she works with. From faces hidden by masks, preventing speech reading to interpreters learning how to add themselves in to classroom Zoom lessons, Sanders said everyone involved has stepped up to make things work.
She said that coming back to perform for the club is something the students have been eager for, one step nearer to a return to normal.
Before the holiday programs from the students, Sanders called QPS Superintendent Roy Webb to the podium, where he was given a gift from sophomore Makenna Lohmeyer in gratitude of his service to the school district.
“Since he’s retiring now and I’m graduating in 2024, it was hard to think about there being a new superintendent,” Lohmeyer said. “So we wanted to make it clear how important he’s been to all of us over the years.”
Lohmeyer said the gift came from everyone in the deaf and hard of hearing program. They just had to figure out the way and the time they were going to present it to him.
“It’s very nice when it comes from the kids,” Webb said. “The kind words mean a lot. It’s something that I will always be fond of from my time in Quincy, the time with the kids.”
Webb said the Exchange Club has played an important part in supporting programs at the schools, and the holiday program was one he’d been waiting for.
“The Exchange Club and what they’ve done for all of our kids, but especially the deaf and hard of hearing students, it’s a special group,” he said. “This is always a highlight of my year.”
This year’s program featured students presenting the Christmas favorite “All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)” with both vocal and American Sign Language performances. This was followed by a reading/signing of the classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” by Clement Clarke Moore, more commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas.” The performances were met with a standing ovation from Exchange Club members.
Dolieslager said youth programs are one of the key aspects the Exchange Club focuses on each year.
“We focus on youth programs, community service, and Americanism, and nationally we also work on child abuse prevention,” he said. “Momentum has been building in Quincy, and our Club has been growing, but we’re always looking for more community volunteers.
“All citizens are welcome, and we want to encourage everyone to consider joining the Exchange Club,” Dolieslager continued. “It’s a great organization, and we’re definitely open to anyone that may want to join.”
Friday’s program ended with a visit from Santa Claus himself, with each of the students getting a chance to share their Christmas want-list with him and taking home a gift.