By Liz Premo
Hampton Union, February 11, 2014
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Hampton Academy students Macy Fraser and Mya Sanders
volunteered to help out at this year’s Valentine Tea
at the Lane Memorial Library. [Liz Premo Photo]
See more photos of the Tea
HAMPTON — When it comes to hosting their annual Valentine Tea party, the Friends of the Lane Memorial Library are dedicated to putting on one sweetheart of an event every February.
The best thing about it, is that this popular gathering for ages 3-8 goes well beyond sweet treats and cups of tea. It has become a true community event that is loved by those who take part.
This year's party, held on Saturday was no different. In fact, by all accounts it appears that this was one of most successful Valentine Teas the Friends organization has ever hosted.
"I look forward to it. I love it," said Friends President Wendi Lewis, who with coordinator Sandy Mace oversaw the preparations from beginning to end. "My daughter (Haylie) loves it. She loves to dress up, and she loves the fact that she gets to come with other kids to a special tea party."
As always, the Valentine Tea was a concerted effort supported by a team of volunteers that included Friends members, library staff and students from Hampton Academy.
"All the little kids are happy," said seventh-grader Molly Delaney. She noted that this was her first time volunteering for the tea, adding "it is really fun helping. I'm really glad to be doing it."
"We love the volunteers," said Lewis. "We love that they want to help."
Donations came in from numerous local businesses, as well as from people who signed up in advance to provide a tantalizing assortment of baked goods, fresh fruit and other treats. These were served by the Hampton Academy students during two separate seatings in the festively-decorated Lane Room.
"It's a perfect example of how a community pitches in," said Mace. "It shows how much the community supports events for the children. We couldn't do this without it."
"It's a wonderful day," said Christine Wood, whose five-year-old daughter Ella "likes the face painting and lots of treats" and "spending time with mom."
In addition to the face painting, party guests could have fun playing games of Valentine Tic-Tac-Toe at their tables, crafting Sweetheart Bears door hangers, and creating colorful elastic band bracelets using Rainbow Looms.
Macy Fraser, a seventh-grade volunteer, said she enjoyed working the tea with her friends from Hampton Academy, and assisting their guests in making the popular bracelets.
"I know some of the little kids here," she said. "I'm really glad to help them out."
"I love seeing them interact with each other, watching the older kids with the younger kids," commented Mace. "It's just a whole lot of love."
Organizers had assembled goodie bags for each one of the party-goers to take home. Inside the bags, along with stickers, candy, and fortune cookies, there were "Fancy Nancy Tea for Two" books for the girls and "Night Before Valentine's Day" books for the boys.
"I love that we are encouraging reading by putting books in each child's hand," said Mace.
Story time is always an essential part of the party plans, and this year's selection of Valentine-themed books featured "Love Bug," "Kisses," "Valentine's Day at the Zoo," and "Happy Valentine's Day, Curious George." As is custom, these were read aloud by Paulina Shadowens, head of the library's Children's Services.
"They all love Miss Paulina and love her story time," said Lewis.
Shadowens, too, commented on the continuing success of the Valentine Tea.
"The tea really exemplifies how beautifully the community works together for its young people," said Shadowens. "The Friends work so hard and beautifully to create this special event, and so many local venders as well as students and parents contribute to making this an unforgettable gathering."
For guests and hosts alike, there was something for everyone to enjoy at the tea. Seven-year-old Abby Hansen said her favorite part was "all of it," while her friend Annabelle Holmes thought having tea and treats using real china cups and plates was "special."
Dressed in holiday finery, Emily, 6, and Nathan Goupil, 3 (the latter in a red satin necktie) attended with their Meme and Poppy, Judy and David Norton of Connecticut.
"It was a lovely time," said Judy, adding her grandson "really enjoyed his hot chocolate."
Volunteering brings the seventh-grader Mya Sanders thoughts of both her past and her future.
"I went to the tea when I was little. My mom told me I was walking around in my cute little dress and was in the newspaper," she said. Bringing trays of goodies from table to table at the tea is helpful, said Mya, because she is looking forward to one day having a summer job as a waitress.
For nine-year-old Natalie Murphy, fond memories of attending past Valentine Teas prompted her to ask if she could volunteer as well.
"I took pictures, gave out goodie bags, washed and dried dishes," she reported. "I like seeing the kids' smiles."
"It's awesome to see them having a good time," added eighth-grade volunteer Patrick Cotter. "It's good to volunteer and help out the community."
Lewis noted this kind of support and involvement through the Friends is always welcome.
"Hopefully something like this will make more people interested in the Friends," she said. "We hope to get more people involved and see what projects we can do for the library."