Santa waves to the children

Santa waves to the children at the COG Early Learning Center from his spot on a Trinidad Fire Department unit. TFD, Santa and COG went far in bringing some great seasonal cheer to little kids at the center.

On Thursday, Dec. 17, the Trinidad Fire Department paid a visit to COG Early Learning Center with a special guest riding atop their big red fire engine; Santa Claus. Even though social distancing has made things difficult for children to get an opportunity to see one of the holiday’s biggest celebrities, that didn’t stop COG from pulling off a little Christmas magic anyway.

“While all the kids went outside, our staff had little goody bags of cookies and treats and different things that they took to all our classrooms,” said center Director Deb Hartman. “That way when they got back to their classrooms, we could say that Santa brought it to them while he was passing through.”

Trinidad Fire Department Captain Drew Gatlin was happy to help with the drive by Santa sighting, providing their engine as a sleigh as well as the jolly red-clad giant himself.

“It was so generous for the fire department to help us do something for these kids,” said Hartman. “Children can’t afford to miss even one year of Christmas memories and we’re happy we were able to do something for them.”

Hartman explained that they had planned earlier in the year for more holiday festivities but keeping the children safe was of bigger concern to her and the rest of staff.

“We decided to be proactive and close for a bit before and after Thanksgiving and that seemed to work well,” said Hartman, “so we will be doing that again for Christmas to hopefully help slow those transmission rates as well as keeping the kids and their families safe.”

The center will be closed from Dec. 18 to Jan. 1 and will reopen with the same protocols in place on Jan. 4. Hartman said she believed as of right now, their processes have been working and they would continue efforts of fogging rooms daily, wiping toys and surfaces constantly, and checking temps of children and staff.

The center has also installed some interesting ventilation equipment which was put in back in April that utilizes UV lights in the air ducts, effectively disinfecting the air as it circulates.   

“We worked directly with Kim Gonzales at the health department to be sure that we are doing everything we possibly can to ensure our facilities are a safe place for these kids,” Hartman explained. “A lot of these children’s parents are first-responders, nurses, and healthcare workers that have to go to work and need someone to help them watch their kids and assist them with their schoolwork.”

Hartman, who’s been working with children for more than 30 years, said even with the difficulties this year has brought she is still going strong and passionate about what she does.

“I love my job,” said Hartman. “So much that it doesn’t feel like a job sometimes. Earlier when a little girl grabbed my hand and sang to me, “it’s a great day,” those little reminders let me know I’m in the right line of work.”

For more information about Cog Early Learning Center, their phone number is 719-845-0568.

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