Christmas basket program brings families relief

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published December 24, 2013


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Despite the number of families on the Shelby Lions Club’s Christmas basket list being a little smaller than some years, the community response in donations reached an overwhelming record this year.

Lions Club President Larry Trigger said the event, which has taken place for more than 30 years, is one of the best things they do because the Lions reach out and directly impact the lives of township residents.

This year, the Lions Club will be helping around 95 families. Christmas basket program Co-Chairperson David Katie said the program, in the past, has had as low as 80 families and as high as 135 families.

The baskets go to less-fortunate families in Shelby Township who have passed a screening process. The baskets include Christmas dinner and a few weeks’ worth of groceries and toiletries, as well as winter clothing and toys for children, Trigger said. Each family’s basket is created for them based on the ages of the children and preferences of the family members.

And while called “baskets,” the proper term would be “sturdy cardboard boxes,” Katie said.

He said he has never seen such an outpouring of community support in his 14 years as a Lions Club member as he has this year, especially from the canned food drives at Utica Community Schools junior high and elementary schools. He said the students brought in more than 10,000 canned and dry goods — 10 pickup trucks’ worth.

Throughout the year, he said the club conducts 15-16 fundraisers and receives donations from the community for the Christmas basket program, including a large amount of toys for kids 12 years old and younger from the Marine Corps.

At press time, 75 percent of the 86 Lions Club members were set to deliver the baskets the morning of Saturday, Dec. 21. Katie said one member offered his landscape business’s warehouse as a storage and assembly line headquarters for the program.

Katie said the atmosphere at the warehouse is jolly and busy. Many members don Santa hats while assembling mounds of food, toiletries, clothing and toys into baskets.

“It’s a very emotional project, especially when you walk into someone’s house and they have nothing, maybe a mattress and stove, but no furniture,” Katie said. “When you walk in with 10 boxes full of food and a bag of toys for the kids, it’s very emotional.”

Katie said he involves his adult sons on the deliveries so they can experience the hugs and homemade cards residents give them, since they know they are coming.

“We do a lot of fun stuff as an organization, but this is where we really give back as a community,” Katie said. “The feeling you have as you deliver a basket and a little boy or girl says, ‘Here comes Santa Claus,’ (is priceless).”