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December 19, 2012

’Tis the season for holiday giving

Locals find ways to give time, talent, money to help the less fortunate

By Jessica Strachan
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Mary Ann Vincent, left, of Royal Oak, rings a bell for the Salvation Army while Dawn Perreca, also of Royal Oak, makes a donation to the Red Kettle. There are plenty of charities still in need of donations, and it’s not too late to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
Make this week count:
Seven ways to be charitable

Keep your impact local
Residents can support community-based efforts like local Giving Tree programs in your neighborhood, initiatives hosted at local community centers or Boys & Girls Club locations, and local police department toy drives. The Gift of Warmth at Townsend Cleaners in Bloomfield Township runs through December. Those interested in participating can call (248) 647-0411 for details. To take part in the “Warm Hands … Warm Hearts” drive, call (586) 944-3832, or drop off donations of hats, gloves and scarves to the Leaps and Bounds Family Services at 8129 Packard in Warren.

Give the gift of time
The holidays bring plenty of opportunities to give hands-on help for a good cause. Jimmy’s Kids is a non-profit organization started by a Royal Oak resident more than 20 years ago. The organization collects toys to be delivered Christmas Day. Find out more information about the organization and volunteer opportunities by contacting Jim Tuman at (248) 585-1515 or by visiting www.jimmyskids.com. The Salvation Army serving Southeast Oakland County also needs volunteer bell ringers for Saturdays and Christmas Eve. Individuals or families may participate for two or more hours; learn more at www.ringbell.org or by calling (248) 585-5600.

Looking to give money?
Make it count with sites like Charity Navigator. This site gives reports, data and suggestions for top charities in the U.S. and abroad for the most impact with your dollars. It even has a Holiday Giving Guide. Visit www.charitynavigator.org for more.

Remember the hungry
Gleaners Community Food Bank’s “Give a Hand for the Holidays” campaign allows locals the chance to make holidays a little brighter for those in need by collecting donations of either $5 or five pounds of food. The campaign is hosted around the metro Detroit area and runs until Dec. 31. Van Dyke Public Schools and Troy Community Center are among the participating collection hosts this year. Visit www.gcfb.org for more information.

Need a last-minute gift with lasting impact?
Make a difference with your dollar by giving in honor of your special gift recipient. Causes like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Oxfam International have holiday programs set up to be given as gifts, and they even come with certificates and keepsakes for the recipient (also available as e-cards for the rushed buyer).

Give some, get some
Organizations like metro Detroit’s Forgotten Harvest allow for locals to help eradicate hunger, while offering incentives. The Good Neighbor Holiday Campaign raffles off Detroit Tigers and Detroit Pistons tickets for donations of $125 or more. Forgotten Harvest also sells a variety of holiday cards, of which proceeds benefit programs for the hungry. You can also fight hunger this holiday season with your purchase of select items at local Walgreens Pharmacy locations until Dec. 22. Participants also get a free photo with Santa. Times and locations can be found at www.forgottenharvest.org.

Remember the less fortunate while shopping
If you still have a few names to check off your shopping list this year, you likely aren’t alone. Toys for Tots campaigns are especially handy, as they are often set up in shopping centers and malls. The Michigan State Police will host a special “Stuff a Blue Goose” event to benefit Toys for Toys from noon to 5 p.m. Dec. 22-23 at the Novi Town Center Wal-Mart Super Center. During the event, shoppers can donate items to stuff the iconic blue patrol car, affectionately known to officers as the “Blue Goose.” Other nearby Toys for Tots sites can be found at www.toysfortots.org.

— Jessica Strachan Velazquez

METRO DETROIT — Now is the time to make the most of that “spirit of holiday giving” the old adage refers to, but for every person the season touches, each will tell you there’s a different way to give.

Some dig deep into their wallets for philanthropic causes, while others scoop out a handful of change from their pockets as they pass a friendly Red Kettle bell ringer. Some rally their entire families around a cause, and others use their business as a platform to spread the word. In every case, the intent is to make a meaningful impact this holiday season.

Marina Selenica, 15, of Birmingham, said this time of year isn’t the only time she and her family give — among their favorite notable year-round causes is donating books to Beaumont Hospital’s library. But as the year ends, the Selenica family, who owns Townsend Cleaners in Bloomfield Township, hosts their own charity, and the Detroit Country Day sophomore is the leader behind it all.

“I think that everybody should be giving and caring 365 days a year. But especially during the holidays, people should be more generous,” Selenica said. “It’s the holidays, and everyone should be warm, have a place to celebrate and be with family.”

With her coat drive, called “The Gift of Warmth,” she helps take care of the “staying toasty” part by collecting used coats, fixing them up at the family business, and then donating them to local schools and shelters.

Last year, she collected more than 800 coats at Townsend Cleaners and hopes to garner even more donations this year.

“Everyone should think twice before they throw something out because maybe it’s something to help a good cause,” she added.

Her mother, Marie Selenica, noted the feel-good attitude of the people who drop in to donate.

“When people come in and bring a coat to donate, they feel so good about it,” she said, adding that those donating often share stories of a good, sturdy coat and how it kept them warm. “It allows people to be charitable, even if they don’t have the money to give right now.”

Renee Perkins, who owns the downtown Rochester children’s boutique, The Funky Frog, also knows about the rewards of collecting donations for good causes.

For three years, her shop has a been a site for the Rochester Area Neighborhood House’s Giving Tree program, which allows shoppers to “adopt” a family or child listed on one of the many cards that adorn a Christmas-style tree set up at participating merchants.

“I think the Giving Tree makes it easy to give. It’s a good fit here, too, because people are already coming in with the mindset of buying children’s items,” Perkins said. “My customers are really into it — I think everyone is — because people like to help in any way they can during the holidays.”

Holiday giving may be a tradition of sorts, but Perkins also put an unconventional spin on encouraging charity. During the last stretch of the campaign, when a few cards representing needy children remained on the tree, she took to Facebook.

Posting reminders or encouraging notes about the kids still in need of a caring shopper, she said she was able to secure sponsors for the remaining cards, and shoppers simply have to drop off the gifts at her store.

All in all, she said her customers were able to find different ways to take part in a manner that fit them best.

“Some people can just look in their home and find things with tags. You can re-gift and recycle, and still help someone in need. There are a lot of ways to work it out,” she added.

Plenty of other organizations, services and businesses gave community members a chance to give this season.

Angie’s Toy Chest saw its 19th year of the annual Toys for Tots Christmas Party it hosts in Clinton Township. Local “Christmas with a Firefighter” and “Shop with a Cop” programs in cities like Warren, Southfield and Troy made Christmas gifts even more magical this year, for some.

The Troy Police and Troy VFW Post 4037 teamed up to sponsor the Holiday Food and Gift Drive, during the second week in December, to feed local families who may be struggling for meals. The Southfield Police Department initiated a new toy drive, in honor of the city’s two fallen officers, in order to ensure that local children have presents to open Christmas morning.

Leaps and Bounds Family Services in Warren put out a call for its second annual “Warm Hands … Warm Hearts” holiday campaign, collecting new or gently used winter gear, like hats and gloves.

And there are, of course, still the bell ringers continuing to usher in another successful year of the Salvation Army’s popular Red Kettle campaign. They will be stationed at various locations until Dec. 24 to raise money to assist families in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. 

Salvation Army’s Melanie Mowers, who assigns bell ringers out of the Royal Oak Corps Community Center, said the bell ringers are successful in spreading holiday cheer, representing “Salvation Army’s face in the community” as the “frontlines” of fundraising for programs.

That’s because the message is “every dollar counts,” she said.

“We have so many different kinds of people who give, starting with the richest people,” Mowers explained. “But some of our greatest supporters are those who have been reached by our programs.”

She said that when people can imagine being in the position of struggling to afford food and housing, to pay bills or to make it a bright Christmas morning for their young ones, the connection between the season and spirit of holiday giving is apparent.

“When people can put themselves in that situation and realize that could even be them one day, I think it makes it a whole lot easier to give, in whatever ways that they can.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jessica Strachan at jstrachan@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1108.