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Sterling Heights

October 3, 2012

Beneficiaries, benefactors sought for city’s Holiday Assistance Program

By Cortney Casey
C & G Staff Writer

While hay bales, pumpkins and changing leaves may be at the forefront right now, the city’s community relations employees already have turkey dinners, Christmas trees and gift wrap on their minds.

The department is soliciting names of local families in need — as well as those interested in helping address those needs — for its annual Holiday Assistance Program, a partnership between the city and various public and private organizations.

“There’s a lot of people deserving of assistance, and I know that resources are limited, so we want to do all we can to reach out and assist as many people as possible,” said Community Relations Director Steve Guitar. “It’s a wonderful time of year, and just this little gesture makes the holidays so much more special for families in Sterling Heights.”

Dozens of churches, businesses, youth sports teams, schools, municipal employees, nonprofit organizations and individual residents typically lend a hand to ensure all listed families receive holiday aid in the form of food, clothing and children’s gifts.

Community relations personnel streamline the process by maintaining a countywide database of organizations and agencies to ensure that Macomb County residents receive assistance, “but just by one organization, and not multiple organizations,” said Karen Kazmer, the citizen services specialist who coordinates the efforts. “That way, we can reach out and assist, hopefully, more families.”

Local school districts and other participating organizations submit lists of family requests they’ve fielded to the master record kept by the city. However, individual Sterling Heights families who aren’t already included on one of those rosters can ask that their information be added.

Those requests will be accepted in person 2-4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays throughout October at the Community Relations Office, located in the lower level of City Hall.

Proof of Sterling Heights residency, photo identification, birth certificates of dependents and a W-2 or state assistance forms are required. Due to the need for verification materials, requests will not be accepted via phone, U.S. mail or email. Oct. 24 is the deadline for signing up.

An organizational meeting set for Nov. 5 at the Sterling Heights Public Library will facilitate collection and distribution of recipient information to and from groups offering assistance.

According to the city, the program’s 2011 installment helped around 600 families.

Guitar said this year’s main mission is to try to lengthen the roster of organizations and companies willing to adopt families.

“One of the things we’d like to do now is expand the program to other churches, service clubs and agencies that help families during the holidays and make sure they’re part of our master list,” he said. “We know there’s a lot of agencies and even independent businesses … that assist people during the holidays. That’s the focus of this year’s drive.”

Kazmer also stressed that people needn’t be part of a service club or other group to help out with the program: Anyone can offer to lend a hand.

“We’re always looking for that,” she said. “If there are families who have the means to assist a family, contact us, and we’ll be happy to put them in contact with a (requestor).” 

City Hall is located at 40555 Utica Road, at Dodge Park Road. For more information on adopting a family or participating in the Nov. 5 organizational meeting, call Kazmer at (586) 446-2489.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Cortney Casey at ccasey@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1046.