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Barker Tavern hosts holiday party for Cardinal Cushing Center students

The holiday season kicked off at The Barker Tavern on Dec. 1 when the restaurant, in a joint effort with the Rotary Club of Scituate, hosted the annual holiday party for students of the Cardinal Cushing Center in Hanover.

“This tradition has been happening for 35 years,” said Scituate Rotary Club President Lucille Sorrentino. 

This year’s event was “extra extra special,” Sorrentino said.

“We had invited Senator Patrick O’Connor to stop by and congratulate The Barker on this momentous milestone, and Senator O’Connor honored both The Barker Tavern and the Rotary Club of Scituate with congratulatory citations for our 35 years of service to the community.”

The fact that the party could even take place made it special as last year the celebration had to be scaled down due to the COVID restrictions.

“Our club members were ‘over the top’ thrilled to be celebrating with everyone once again,” Sorrentino said.

Legacy of kindness

Becky Smith is the Event Planner at The Barker Tavern.  She is also the co-owner, along with her brother, George.

The holiday party tradition at The Barker started with her father, Eli Jordan, who had a restaurant in East Sandwich in the early 1970s.

“Somehow he started to invite the children from the Home for Little Wanderers for a holiday party,” Smith said. “He closed the restaurant on a Saturday afternoon at the beginning of December and with the help of the Sandwich Fire and Police Departments hosted a great lunch for three full buses of children and chaperones.”

According to Smith, the Sandwich Fire and Police Departments made sure that Santa was able to give each child a gift.

Jordan would eventually buy The Barker Tavern, and when the Williams Room was competed in 1986 he wanted to have the same holiday celebration at The Barker.

“With the help of Monsignor McNamara at St. Mary’s, and with the Scituate Rotary Club, the tradition of hosting a holiday celebration for the students at the Cardinal Cushing Center had begun,” Smith said.

The Barker provides the dinner, Michael Tucker from Quincy has volunteered his DJ services for the past 15 years, and The Barker staff donate their time. 

“In the early years, because much of our wait staff were moms, their children were also invited and helped us serve the meals and dance with the students,” Smith said.  “The Rotary Club of Scituate always asked - even this past week - how many staff members were expecting to work, and provided a generous gift to each of our staff members.”

Santa’s helpers

Behind the scenes, Rotarians work with Tom McElman, the Recreation Director at the Cardinal Cushing Center, who asks students what special gift they would like from Santa, Sorrentino said.

“We follow up, buy the gifts and match the gift with the student.”

The Barker always hosts this event the first week of December so we know that the Williams Room needs to be fully decorated and the tree ready to receive all the presents that the Rotarians have specifically selected for the student they sponsor, Smith said.

The highlight of the evening is the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Clause.

“Santa calls out each student’s name while the crowd cheers as the students run up to receive their present,” Sorrentino said.  “The students are so respectful of each other and are genuinely excited and happy for their friends and the gifts they all receive.”

Their exuberance spills out onto the dance floor, the music gets turned up a few notches, and the party continues, she added.

Cardinal Cushing students are awesome, Smith said. 

“They are so loving, polite, and appreciative.  They engage in conversation and really enjoy each other’s company.”

Smith recalls at this year’s party she happened to be standing by a table helping a young girl with her gifts and how exited the girl was about all the different puzzles she received.

“She couldn’t believe that Santa knew she loved puzzles,” Smith said.  “A young man opened a Lego set and he kept saying it was ‘just what I wanted.’  Such a simple gesture is truly heartwarming when you see those young adults’ reaction.”

While The Barker hosts this special event once a year, Smith points out there are 364 other days in the year, and that in every community there are families and children struggling.

“There are so many residents and businesses who very quietly try to provide for these families and children so that they are not forgotten,” she said, mentioning that Scituate Community Christmas, the Scituate Food Pantry, Richard Bonanno of the Rolling Wave Foundations, and others help those in need throughout the year.

“This is just a small thing that we do,” she said.

For more information on The Barker Tavern visit  More information of the Rotary Club of Scituate find the Rotary Club of Scituate, MA on Facebook.

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