Volunteers invited to assemble Holiday Baskets

Hazel Park’s time-honored tradition still going strong

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published December 11, 2013

HAZEL PARK — This Friday, Dec. 13, people are asked to shake off their superstitions about bad luck and improve someone else’s holiday luck by helping to bundle up goods for the Hazel Park Holiday Baskets.

The festive tradition has been a staple of the Hazel Park community for more than 30 years now. As in past years, “Santa’s elves” will be toiling away on the baskets of good cheer inside Webb Elementary, starting at 9 a.m. and going until about 4 or 5 p.m. on Dec. 13. The elementary school is located at 2100 Woodward Heights Blvd.

“It’s so great to see everyone coming together,” said Laura Weidman, member of the Hazel Park Holiday Basket Committee. “Students, teachers, board members, businesses, city people — a whole sea of volunteers, dividing up the cans, whistling and singing as we’re working. And we have this wonderful DJ who’s been donating his time to provide holiday music in the background. It’s a magical moment.”

Monetary contributions and donations are also being accepted, up through Dec. 12. Useful items include hats and mittens, books and board games suitable for children.

“The more we can save, the more years we can keep running this,” Weidman said.

Various sites around the city have been collecting nonperishable food items and other goods. In 2012, they met or exceeded the nearly 18,000 goods collected the year before. Webb Elementary was the big winner in the collection drive in 2012, gathering more than 5,000 items itself. 

The program always aims to help between 300 and 400 families, and usually hit the 300-plus figure. SERVPRO of Hazel Park worked with a distributor to provide the “baskets” — boxes filled with canned goods, cereals like Captain Crunch and Honey Nut Cheerios, and a $10 shopping card to Kroger for perishable items like milk and butter. Each school-age child on the application receives a brand new board game, a book, a hat and mittens. Rounding out the package is a Dearborn holiday ham, bagged separately.

The recipients have already been finalized. Chuck Shanaman, general manager and managing partner at SERVPRO of Hazel Park, will supervise the collection sites and contribute a truck to round up the goods and deliver them to Webb Elementary.

“I want to give Chuck kudos for all he’s done to help,” said Sherrie Polowski, co-chair of the Hazel Park Holiday Basket Committee, along with Laura LaForme. “He has really been instrumental in making sure everything goes off without a hitch.”

The committee is expecting around 100 volunteers to help sort and pack the goods at Webb Elementary Dec. 13. They also have students come over from Hazel Park Junior High and Hazel Park High School.

“They get out of school at 2 p.m., and many of them head straight to Webb Elementary to help us,” Polowski said. “It’s nice to have that energy come in because, by that point, everyone is getting tired.­”

While students will be able to help in the assembly process, there will be no students present during the pickup on Saturday, Dec. 14, when the recipients can come in anonymous fashion to claim their goods.

“We’ve never had any issues,” Polowski said. “It’s a group effort, a well-oiled machine, and everyone knows what they have to do, and they get it done. It’s everyone working together.”

The packing day for the Hazel Park Holiday Baskets in Friday, Dec. 13, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at Webb Elementary, 2100 Woodward Heights Blvd. For more information, call Webb Elementary at (248) 658-5902.