‘Tis better to give…SAM SIWAK recently celebrated his seventh birthday by making a difference: Instead of gifts, he asked his friends to bring food to donate to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry at Jewish Family & Children’s Service. We’re told Sam collected more than 100 items and delivered them to the food pantry, which, like other local pantries, has seen a surge in clientele over the past few months. Sam is the son of STACY and GREG SIWAK of Clayton.

    A group of local high school seniors will soon be headed to the nation’s capitol to receive one of the highest student honors around. The PRESIDENTIAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM has announced its candidates for 2010, and they include: SEAN GHOSH and VISHNU KALUGOTLA of MICDS; LIRON GANEL, JOY HE, GRACE MOSLEY and AMMAR ZAHID of Parkway Central; RAJIV TARIGOPULA of Parkway West; DOUGLAS HALL and MATTHEW MENENDEZ of Priory School; SUPRIYA HOBBS, JINGJIE LIU, DEVON CAMP, RADHIKA JAIN and HENRY SCHMIDT of John Burroughs; KATHLEEN NACCARATO and  MEREDITH REDICK of Clayton; GRAHAM BOS WELL, MADELINE GILJE and HALEY MILLNER of Ladue; ROB GOLTERMAN, BENJAMIN MINDEN-BIRKENMAI and FRANK SCHUMACHER of SLUH; and STEPHANIE KLIMCZAK of Villa Duchesne. Scholars are selected based on academic and artistic achievement, leadership qualities and community involvement. They’ll travel to Washington in June to receive the Presidential Scholars medallion at a recognition ceremony.

    Tennis’ biggest names will once again make their way here for the 2010 ST. LOUIS ACES season. JOHN McENROE will do battle with JIM COURIER to kick off the season April 24. And it gets better! The team has also secured LINDSAY DAVENPORT for a few home games, ANNA KOURNIKOVA for one night—and even VENUS WILLIAMS for a visit!

    Comings…Newly appointed MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN president PETER WYSE JACKSON has some colossal shoes to fill. When he officially takes over Sept. 1, he’ll be following in the footsteps of DR. PETER RAVEN, who for the past four decades has transformed the Garden into a world-class destination for research, education and horticultural display. A native of Kilkenny, Ireland, Wyse Jackson previously served as the director of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland. During his five-year tenure there, he prioritized environmental sustainability and placed a new emphasis on organic horticulture and home gardening. Raven will become president emeritus and will assist during a transition period.

    And goings…Longtime CHILDREN’S MIRACLE NETWORK executive director GIL ENGLER is retiring. For the past 13 years, Engler has led efforts to raise funds and awareness for St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center. We’re told that he and wife MERRILEE plan to spend more time with their grandkids and travel. Engler’s replacement has not yet been named.

    Local poet and artist EDWARD BOCCIA is the latest recipient of the Webster Groves Arts Commission’s Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award. The 88-year-old Boccia, a longtime Webster resident, is professor emeritus of the School of Fine Arts at Washington University. His paintings and drawings have appeared in many solo exhibitions and have been displayed at the Smithsonian, Harvard University, the Dada Gallery and in Athens, Greece. He also has received dozens of awards for his poems.

    Local mom and businesswoman BECKIE MAISLIN has launched an interactive, family-friendly Web site listing things to do in and around town. ST. LOUIS SPROUT & ABOUT (stlsprout.com) features a comprehensive calendar that’s  searchable by ZIP code, event category, age and keyword. 

    Over the holidays, LADUE NEWS and STRAUSS PEYTON PHOTOGRAPHY teamed up for the annual Season of Giving campaign to benefit St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Strauss Peyton generously waived its sitting fee and donated 10 percent of proceeds from orders to the hospital, which totaled $5,600 this season.