By David Macaulay
The Virginian Pilot
Dec 6, 2016
About 1,000 students from Chesapeake and Virginia Beach went on a free shopping trip Sunday, in an annual event inspired 14 years ago when a businessman visited a school in need.
James C. Archbell is president of a Chesapeake construction company, A&W Contractors. He started the JCA Foundation after meeting a teacher friend for lunch at a school that was Title I, a designation the indicates high percentages of students from low-income families.
“I went there to have lunch with her,” he said. “She just wanted to show me around and show me some of the needs the kids had.
“When I got there I was just baffled by what I saw. These kids didn’t have shoes, none of them had coats,” he said.
Many of the kids’ families didn’t have the means to celebrate Christmas, so Archbell decided to do something through his charity, the JCA Foundation, which uses his first, middle, and last initials in its name.
“Every year it gets a little bit bigger,” he said about the shopping event, dubbed Kids Kruz. “We don’t know when it’s going to stop.”
For the past 12 years, the JCA Foundation has brought festive cheer to needy children by giving them gift cards to go shopping. This year’s event at Wal-Mart Supercenter on Hillcrest Parkway in Chesapeake was bigger than ever.
Kids from 10 schools in Chesapeake and two in Virginia Beach shopped, ate a pizza dinner with Santa Claus and toured the Christmas lights at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.
JCA marketing and promotions officer Sunday Hill said many of the kids were seeing the lights on the Boardwalk for the first time. School principals and guidance counselors choose students based on their family lives and backgrounds.
“It’s a select and blessed group of individuals,” she said.
Teachers and other school workers took the students shopping. Students from Seatack and Birdneck elementary schools in Virginia Beach participated.
Maria Bair, who works in the office at Birdneck, said about 100 kids from her school attended the event.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to come and have this great experience with all these other kids,” Bair said, “and hopefully give back to the community by giving gifts to others.”
There is a lot of need at Birdneck, Bair said.
“We have a lot of parents who struggle with just meeting day-to-day needs at our school,” she said.
“I think this is awesome,” said Ann Boruchowki, a kindergarten teacher from Camelot Elementary in Chesapeake. “I just moved down here in July, and I think it’s great.”
Karma Reynolds, a teacher at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Chesapeake, went shopping with Andrew Mena, 8, and Keshawn Gregory.
“We are having fun,” said Andrew, who bought an Air Hogs helicopter with his voucher.