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COLUMBIA - In a neighborhood that is sometimes stigmatized, a visit from St. Nick can be a bright spot.

“Santa Claus is coming!” shouted an eight-year-old girl holding a candy cane.

The holiday celebration took place inside of the Columbia Square Apartments and Claudell Homes on Friday.

Property manager Gina Weber said this is the first time the community has something special for the holiday, but the children are used to Friday afternoons being a time for treats.

Earlier this year, a maintenance supervisor started buying candy and it quickly became a tradition.

“We hook up the trailer to the golf cart and we go out and hand out candy to the kids,” Weber said.  

But this Friday was different. There were bells attached to the golf cart, and when Weber and other employees at West Worley went inside,  they gave children and other residents teddy bears and sweet treats.

“We want to be a very positive influence to all of the kids out here, and families because this is their homes,” Weber said.

She said the complex has at least 50 children and 15 older residents. She said she takes it upon herself to make sure the children feel comfortable and to check up on the older residents on a regular basis.

The property is expanding on what's already been a tradition for Thanksgiving.

"In the past couple of years, at Thanksgiving we draw names for a turkey. For Christmas, it was ham,” Weber said.

She said residents who pay their rent on time, they're qualified to be in the drawing.

Columbia Square Townhomes and Claudell Homes are also home the HIKE Program, which stands for Help Instill the Key to Education. It's an afterschool program that caters to 30 children every week.

Service Coordinator Natalee Thorto said the children have an in-house reading specialist and enrichment lessons weekly.

Weber said she was proud of Friday's event.

“It makes it all worthwhile to see their little faces,” Weber smiled.