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May 6, 2014

Eastpointe finance staff collect toys for displaced kids

By Kevin Bunch
C & G Staff Writer

EASTPOINTE — City staffers are doing their parts to help local displaced and homeless kids get toys for the holidays, and the staffers are starting early.

The Eastpointe Finance Department is collecting toys, gift cards and money to help get gifts together for Macomb County kids, from babies to teenagers, for the holidays. Lori Tillison, who does the water billing, said that the city has been collecting these items for the past three years prior to the organization running the distribution. Macomb County Rotating Emergency Shelter Team (MCREST) starts that distribution in December.

“It is a program that assists homeless families. Churches sign up throughout the year to house the families for a week at a time,” Tillison said. “And every Christmas, we collect gifts and have a ‘toy store,’ where the moms and parents can come in and pick out toys. They’re free — there’s no charge.”

At Eastpointe, Tillison said she begins collecting items shortly after the new year begins in order to ensure they have enough for everybody. The money and gift cards are used to purchase gifts, and those gifts are taken with the donations to the Scruffy Church in Warren.

MCREST Executive Director April Fidler said the organization begins getting phone calls from people to be put on the “shopping” list in October. In December, when the collection period ends, those who need help are brought in to “shop” for items to give away as Christmas presents.

“It’s that famous saying: ‘If you build it, they’ll come,” Fidler said. “Every year, our numbers grow.”

Fidler said while other organizations like the Goodfellows or Lions Club have programs to help families get gifts for Christmas, some people do not know how to get signed up with them, or do not meet the criteria. MCREST just requires that the children belong to the parents, and that the family is displaced or homeless.

Tillison said the hardest part is getting things for teenagers. While MCREST only accepts new gifts, most people bring in things for babies or younger children while ignoring the teenage bracket entirely. As a result, donated money and gift cards typically go toward gifts for those older kids.

“They’re always the hardest to buy for, and they’re usually a little more expensive, too, so they’re usually forgotten,” she said. “It’s easy to go out and buy a baby gift, so we try and concentrate on the teens.”

Anyone interested in donating can bring new toys, gift cards or money to the Finance Department at Eastpointe City Hall during normal business hours.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kevin Bunch at kbunch@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.