Students and staff at The Enrichment Center found a “sweet” way to honor local first responders on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Enrichment Center, a United Way agency that serves more than 500 clients with intellectual or developmental disabilities and families, partnered with local companies to treat members of the Winston-Salem Police Department, the Winston-Salem Fire Department, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department and local EMS workers to a special “Thank You” ice cream social at the Center, 1006 S. Marshall St.
This was the first year that the Center gave kudos to local first-responders. The event generated great excitement.
“I think it’s one of the favorite (events) of our students and our staff,” said said Executive Director Valerie Vizena. “We just thought it was something sweet to give back.”
The ice cream social, which spanned much of the day on Tuesday, Sept. 11, also included performances by the Enrichment Center’s Percussion Ensemble and Performance Company, which did a military inspired dance to Michael Jackson’s “Jam.” Center students churned out more than 150 original thank you cards to be delivered to the various agencies.
Police Officers Claudia Morgan and Al Negron were among the first to arrive at the Center, which displays and sells artwork made by the students in its adjacent Gateway Gallery. The two have become familiar faces around the Center, as they are helping to launch a Special Olympics cheerleading squad there. Morgan, a 21-year veteran and the Special Olympics coordinator for the WSPD, was already acquainted with many Center students through the Special Olympics.
“Special Olympics is actually law enforcement’s largest charity,” said Morgan, one of two inductees to the 2012 North Carolina Torch Run Hall of Fame, which honors dedicated Special Olympics volunteers. “North Carolina raised $980,000 last year for Special Olympics.”
Negron, who lost a friend in the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, said getting to interact with the Enrichment Center students was a bright spot in his day.
“They are open minded with their love – once they accept you, you’re accepted for life,” he said. “They always are grateful; they’re always enthusiastic.”
BE Aerospace lent its support to the event, providing over two dozen volunteers to dole out the ice cream during the social. The event was BE Aerospace’s first introduction to the Center. Human Resources Manager Ben Nichols, who coordinated the volunteer effort, said he was impressed with what he saw.
“I had no idea that the Enrichment Center does all that it does,” he declared. “It’s amazing. I’ve had goosebumps since I got in here this morning. It just gives you a good feeling inside.”
Enrichment Center student Noelle Nichols (who is not related to Ben Nichols) said she was excited to help host the social.
“I love it, and the ice cream is very good,” the city native declared.
Nichols, 42, created four thank you cards. She said she felt it was important to to give remembrance to that tragic day.
“So many people lost family members in that. I felt so bad for them,” she remarked. “I know everyone will remember that. Even if you try, you can’t forget.”
For more information about The Enrichment Center, visit enrichmentarc.org or call 777-0076.