Keeana Anderson and Juliani Peach, students from the Hazel Park Advantage Alternative School, help out during the holiday baskets assembly Dec. 15.

Keeana Anderson and Juliani Peach, students from the Hazel Park Advantage Alternative School, help out during the holiday baskets assembly Dec. 15.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Community comes together to build holiday baskets

By: Andy Kozlowski | C&G Newspapers | Published December 27, 2017

 Chloe Tolomei, 15, of Hazel Park Advantage Alternative School, helps out at the assembly.

Chloe Tolomei, 15, of Hazel Park Advantage Alternative School, helps out at the assembly.

Photo by Donna Agusti

HAZEL PARK/FERNDALE — School employees, students, city officials and other volunteers came together Dec. 15 to assemble holiday baskets at Webb Elementary in Ferndale, part of the Hazel Park Public Schools. And the next day, individuals and families in need came by to pick up the goods. 

It’s a tradition stretching back more than 30 years. Applications were open to anyone who lives in the district and were accepted for a period of one month starting Nov. 6. Applicants were sent postcards telling them when and where to pick up the baskets.  

Sherrie Polowski, chairwoman of the committee that oversees the program, isn’t sure when this Hazel Park tradition officially began. But regardless of how it started, it’s a Christmastime ritual that continues year after year without skipping a beat. 

“It’s just such a feel-good program,” Polowski said. “The residents are so happy and appreciative. We also have some kids from the junior high that help out. They do anything we need.” 

The committee collects donations of money, nonperishable food, winter wear and more from businesses and individuals around town. Meijer and Kroger are consistent supporters, the latter donating gift cards for grocery shopping that are included with each holiday basket so applicants can pick up fresh food items to complete their holiday meals. 

First United Methodist Church of Hazel Park is once again contributing socks. This year, the committee was able to purchase additional socks.

As always, there’s a Dearborn ham included with each basket. The boxes are prepped ahead of time with the food and nonperishable items — that’s what the volunteers assemble Dec. 15 — and then on Dec. 16, the applicants arrive and go around the gymnasium at Webb Elementary picking out other items such as books and board games for the kids; hats, gloves and scarves to keep warm during the winter months, and toys with wrapping paper — new additions this year. 

“The holiday baskets are a wonderful, long-standing tradition in Hazel Park,” said Amy Kruppe, HPPS superintendent. “The Friday loading of baskets gives students an opportunity to give back to the Hazel Park community that has given so much to them. We love to see the staff, new and old, and students of Hazel Park come together to fill the baskets for others.

“When I first came to Hazel Park, I was amazed at the incredible generosity of this event,” she said. “What a wonderful way to say thank you to so many by adding to their holidays.”