Gingerbread Express Spreads Holiday Joy

It’s not every day that kindergartners get to wish their police chief a Merry Christmas, but on Gingerbread Day at William D’Abate Elementary School, all kinds of good things can happen.

Chief Clements with a handmade angel ornament presented to him by a student.

Chief Clements with a handmade angel ornament presented to him by a student.

For the 25th consecutive year, Christmas came early in a big way to the school’s 410 students as the Gingerbread Express rolled into the back door of the school’s gymnasium, delivering large bags filled with gifts for every student at the school.

A tractor trailer provided by the Rhode Island Teamsters Union, escorted by Providence police and firefighters, delivered the gifts donated by the National Education Association of Rhode Island’s Children’s Fund.

As each class entered the gymnasium, colorfully decorated for Gingerbread Day, they were greeted by a host of volunteers, many whom have been part of the celebration for every one of the past 25 years, including William D’Abate’s granddaughter, Julie D’Abate Calise.

Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, Providence Schools administrators, Police Chief Hugh Clements, members of the D’Abate family, police and firefighters and many more volunteers from schools and colleges throughout Rhode Island, along with the traditional dancing gingerbread cookies, joined in the festivities. They waited patiently and listened as The Gingerbread Story was read in English and Spanish by teachers Ray Allsworth and Sonia Grullon.

“When there is a need, people stand up,” Principal Brent Kermen said, as he welcomed volunteers and students. “We are very grateful and very appreciative. Every one of our boys and girls is very deserving,” he added.

Gingerbread Day is a very special one for kindergartners Jorie Gibbs and Valery Marin at William D’Abate.

Gingerbread Day is a very special one for kindergartners Jorie Gibbs and Valery Marin at William D’Abate.

The highlight of Gingerbread Day is the presentation of large bags of gifts, many bigger than the school’s younger students, that included gifts each child requested on a wish list.

Denise D’Abate Horton, daughter of William D’Abate, said her father was a champion for public education. “He was a first-generation American who understood the importance of education. His belief in working for the benefit of the school as a whole has passed on. Many of our former recipients are now donors, and that would please him the most.”

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