Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Shores man helps families, children through volunteering

Meet Mike Koch

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 21, 2023


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Mike Koch has a long history of volunteering with the Goodfellows and local school districts to help kids grow into outstanding citizens and young adults.

Koch said he’s been volunteering with the St. Clair Shores Goodfellows for more than 30 years and that he is the president of the organization. He said he enjoys helping people and giving back to the community. Growing up, giving back to the community was instilled in him by his parents.

“We, as a family, were always involved, whether it was church activities or community activities,” Koch said. “So growing up, that was just always part of my life and it’s continued on.”

During November and December, the St. Clair Shores Goodfellows are the most active. They’re motto is “No Kiddie Without a Christmas.” Local school districts throughout the months of November and December will collect nonperishable food for the Goodfellows. Through the help of Scout groups, the food is sorted at the North Fire Station in St. Clair Shores to make gift baskets.

“Those gift baskets will be distributed to needy families within the city of St. Clair Shores Christmas Eve morning,” Koch said.

They host a newspaper sale the first Saturday of December to raise funds to help needy families during the Christmas season. The funds are used for purchasing perishable items such as turkeys and stuffing and other things. An interview process takes place for the families to get more details about their needs and the size of the family.

“And for every child that lives in the city of St. Clair Shores that comes from a needy family, we will give the parents a gift card so that they can then go out and purchase Christmas presents for their children,” Koch said.

Koch said he has several memories from helping with the Goodfellows. Some of those memories are made when he’s out on the streets selling the papers.

“Someone will come up and make a very generous donation to us,” Koch said. “And it never fails, every person that does that always tells the same story that, ‘When I was little, if it wasn’t for the Goodfellows, my family would not have had a Christmas.’”

He said some people they’ve helped are doing better and feel it’s important to give back to the Goodfellows. The papers they sell don’t have a price and they’re thankful for any donations they get.

Koch worked at the Morley and Sanders candymakers for 49 years before retiring. He stated he did everything at the company and that before he retired, he was one of the co-owners.

“So in that time, I was a warehouse manager, truck driver, quality control manager, vice president of manufacturing,” Koch said. “I did just about every job there is within the company.”

He had a lot of fun working in the candy industry and said people usually come to a candy store for enjoyment instead of necessity.

Koch was inducted into the Candy Hall of Fame in 2013. He described it as a lifetime achievement award for what a person has done to help the industry. Eight to 10 people are given the award each year.

In 2016, he was given the Candy Industry Kettle Award, which is given to someone who has dedicated their life to the industry and has also bettered the industry itself. This award is given to one person a year throughout all the candy industry.

“I’ve done a lot to help, you know, not just our company, but to help out our industry as a whole and that’s why I received the Kettle Award,” Koch said.

He was also a Cub Scouts scoutmaster and helped with his son’s Boy Scouts troop. He said he enjoyed helping the boys learn new things.

“The life skills they can learn from that will last forever for them,” Koch said. “So again, teaching them to be good citizens and learning the things that you know they need to do to succeed in life.”

He also volunteers at Lake Shore Schools with the band boosters, the athletic boosters and as an announcer for football games and basketball games.

The most memorable part of his time at the school district is getting to see the kids succeed and grow.

“To me that’s the rewarding part, is to see them succeed,” Koch said.

People have come up to Koch and said thank you for his good deeds. He sees it especially when he gives out the baskets of food during the Christmas holiday.

“I’ve shared tears with people because, you know, they give you a hug and they’re so overwhelmed with, you know,” Koch said. “And that’s what makes me keep coming back is when you see that emotion on someone.”

He added that needing help from an organization such as the Goodfellows doesn’t mean that someone is a bad person.

“We’re here to help all of those people,” Koch said. “We don’t judge anyone. If you need help, we want to help you.”

Koch said more people should volunteer and help out in their community. With the Goodfellows, Koch said, the two main opportunities to volunteer are the newspaper sales and giving out the baskets. He said for both events they have people show up year after year.

“The amazing thing is, you come one year to help deliver food baskets Christmas Eve,” Koch said. “You will be back the next year. You go into someone’s home Christmas Eve morning with several baskets of food and a turkey, and it just warms your heart that you’ve brought some joy to somebody’s house.”

He went on to say that without volunteers, an organization like theirs wouldn’t exist and it’s important to have volunteers.

He said it’s important for people to get involved, whether it be with Goodfellows or a local school, and help out the children.

“If we can help the kids out, they’re going to grow up to be better people, better citizens and learn that they’re appreciated,” Koch said. “And you know if you start at a young age helping them out, they’re going to grow up to be really good people in my mind.”