Kids’ Almanac (Dec. 12-19)

Light-themed service at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Poughkeepsie

On Sunday, December 15 at 10:30 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Poughkeepsie, families are invited to attend “And So, the Light,” a multigenerational service “that celebrates our universal connection to each other through the element of light.” A pizza-and-salad luncheon will take place after the service, followed by the annual Unitarian Universalist Holiday Craft Festival from 1 to 4 p.m.

“You have many families and this event is here to acknowledge it. Come make a candle with a member of your congregational family. Make a card for someone in your immediate family, or add someone else to your family by giving a gift for the charitable Giving Tree. There’s lots to do at this festive event!”

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Poughkeepsie is located at 67 South Randolph Avenue in Poughkeepsie. For more information, call (845) 471-6580 or visit



150+ nativity scenes on view at Mariapolis Luminosa in Hyde Park

When I heard that there was a local display of more than 150 nativity scenes, I had to see it for myself. My kids and I checked it out this week, and it’s pretty awesome. Mariapolis Luminosa presents this annual exhibit as an expression of Focolare Movement founder Chiara Lubich’s passion for Christmas. The exhibit is open daily through December 24, and admission is free, although donations are welcome.

Each of us found our favorites: My daughter loved the shiny piece from Poland that was made out of recycled chocolate foil wrappers; my son got a kick out of the crèche from Latin America that was so tiny that it was accompanied by a magnifying glass for viewing; and I was taken by the display from Peru placing the nativity scene in a reed raft instead of a manger, as well as the abstract display created from Long Island beach elements including a sea star and shells. The kids also enjoyed repeatedly counting the exhibits, consistently resulting in a different number every time, but always well over 100.

The nativity scenes are set up along both sides of a long hallway, continuing into a larger room at the end, which makes for easy viewing at your own pace while Christmas music plays over the loudspeakers. Light packaged refreshments are offered for sale at the counter, and small baby Jesus dolls are available for a $5 donation to the Philippines, but there is no pressure to make purchases. I invite you to take your family to visit this special display from so many cultures around the world. It’s really lovely.

Visiting hours through December 24 are Monday through Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Visits after December 26 are by appointment, and the exhibit will come down sometime after January 6. Mariapolis Luminosa is located at 200 Cardinal Road in Hyde Park. For more information, call (845) 229-0230, extension 133, or visit


Historical holidays

Children’s Reading Festival & more at FDR Library in Hyde Park

Here’s a chance to visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Sites. On Saturday, December 14, the home of FDR will be historically decorated for the holidays and open for viewing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at no charge. FDR impersonator Preston Gifford, Jr. will perform readings of A Christmas Carol from 2 to 4 p.m. in the house living room.

The FDR Library hosts an Open House from 12 noon to 4 p.m. featuring the annual Children’s Reading Festival with children’s book authors such as Iza Trapani, photo opportunities with Santa from 1 to 3 p.m. and cardmaking for sailors on the USS Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. From 4 to 7 p.m., take the shuttle bus from the Henry A. Wallace Visitor Center at the FDR site to visit Eleanor Roosevelt’s retreat, Val-Kill.

The FDR site is located at 4097 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park. For more information about the tours, call (845) 229-5320 or visit To learn more about the Children’s Reading Festival, visit


Christmas Open House at Clermont

On Saturday, December 14, it’s Christmas at Clermont, and you’re invited to the Family Open House. Admission is free from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Clermont Historic Site is located at 1 Clermont Avenue in Germantown. For more information, call (518) 537-4240 or visit


Christmas with the Ellisons at Knox’s Headquarters in Vails Gate

Enjoy a candlelight tour of Knox’s Headquarters, the 1754 Ellison mansion historically decorated for the season with costumed interpreters in each room. This “Christmas with the Ellisons” event takes place on Saturday, December 14 from 4 to 8 p.m. Knox’s Headquarters is located at 289 Forge Hill Road in Vails Gate. For more information, call (8450 561-5498 or visit


Candlelight tours with carols at Mount Gulian in Beacon

Festive holiday candlelight tours take place on Sunday, December 15 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Mount Gulian. At 5 p.m., it’s holiday music and carols with the Evergreen Chorus, and free refreshments. Admission costs $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, $4 for children and is free for members. Mount Gulian is located at 145 Sterling Street in Beacon. For more information, call (845) 831-8172 or visit


Local craft fairs

Handcrafted Holiday Sale: Saturday, December 14, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tillson Firehouse at the corner of Tillson and Springtown Roads in Tillson,

Howland Cultural Center Craft Fair featuring the Hudson Valley Etsy Team: Saturday, December 14, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Howland Cultural Center, 477 Main Street in Beacon,



Hyde Park Station presents Polar Express Night: Monday, December 16, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., reading of The Polar Express in the historic station, crafts, refreshments, 34 River Road, Hyde Park,

Adams Fairacre Farms in Kingston has a small holiday train set up next to the Santa photo area, 1560 Ulster Avenue, Lake Katrine,

Williams Lumber in Rhinebeck has a large holiday train display with three separate running trains, easily visible from all four sides, 6760 Route 9, Rhinebeck,


Featured Charity: Brenna Engle Foundation

Having trouble making ends meet and need some clothing for your family? Go to Brenna’s Basement. Starting over on your own or in a new place? Head over to Brenna’s Basement. Interested in sponsoring an orphaned, abandoned or underprivileged child abroad? Think Brenna’s Home.

So much incredible work radiates from the legacy of Brenna Engle, a young local girl whose life ended suddenly at age 3, but whose spirit over the years continues to inspire countless acts of kindness and compassion. The Brenna Engle Foundation is a local non-profit organization created by Brenna’s parents, Richard and Donna Engle, and its influence ranges from Brenna’s Basement in Poughkeepsie all the way to Brenna’s Home in the Ukraine; and now a new presence is being explored in Ethiopia.

Brenna’s Basement has been operating for the past several years, in conjunction with other local agencies such as Love INC, the Care Net Pregnancy Center, Birthright, the Grace Smith House, Hudson River Housing, Dutchess County Healthy Families and others. Since September 2013 alone, Brenna’s Basement has helped to provide over 150 people with clothing for men, women and children, as well as helped to equip families and individuals starting over with linens and kitchenware for independent living.


In talking with Richard Engle, his passion for helping is limitless. He and his wife make regular visits to Brenna’s Home in the Ukraine, where three staff members care for 12 children and provide a loving, supportive environment. Sponsorships of the children cost $25 per month, which works out to 79 cents per day, and help to cover the costs of food, clothing, shelter and school expenses.

Sponsors are assigned a child and encouraged to connect directly with that child through letters, photos, birthday cards and a small Christmas gift. Sponsors receive correspondence from the child, as well as a monthly e-mail update about Brenna’s Home from the Foundation. Sponsors can be individuals, families or even clubs or organizations, and an array of payment plans is available.

I asked Engle what some of the most pressing needs are at the moment. He invites interested readers to consider a sponsorship of a child in the Ukraine or to make a general donation to the Foundation. For Brenna’s Basement, Engle said that there’s an ongoing need for disposable items such as diapers and toiletries, as well as good recent car seats and other baby gear and startup household items like linens, towels and blankets. All items should be in excellent condition as a respectful gesture to the recipients. Due to limited space, please call before donating.

I invite you to visit the organization’s website to learn more about what a powerful, meaningful gift a donation or sponsorship can be for the giver, as well as the recipients on the other side of the world. Financial gifts to the Brenna Engle Foundation may be mailed to 3 Albert Road, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603. For more information, to make arrangements for a donation or to make an appointment to utilize the services offered, call (845) 473-7849 or visit


Locally sourced gifts

As your Kids’ Almanac columnist, I want to share some ideas for locally sourced gifts made by talented local parents. I asked what they wished that people knew about the impact of buying locally from area artists; something that they have learned, appreciated or experienced this holiday season; a favorite holiday tradition in their family; and a favorite holiday spot that they enjoy in the Hudson Valley.


The Treehouse

Kathy Preston, 5 North Front Street in New Paltz, (845) 802-1197,,

I love the Treehouse registry. I can write down everything that I wish my family would buy for me, and all of the information is right there. There are some gorgeous items in the $20-and-under section that are a must-see. You should go any time to the Treehouse, but two special events might entice you as well: a Meet-the-Artists reception on Thursday, December 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. and henna body art on Thursday, December 19 from 6 to 9 p.m.

Something you wish that people knew about the impact of buying locally, from local artists

“Buying locally means the world to us. You’re buying a physical manifestation of our dreams, talents and struggles, whether it’s a $1 ornament or a $100 etching. Buying art not only gets you something unique, it lets artists know that what we do has value and is cherished. I’m so grateful for my local customers. The small act of choosing the Treehouse allows me to keep doing what I love: making art and promoting other artists.”