City, partners to collaborate on charitable holiday campaign

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 7, 2015

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An annual program arranged by the city of Sterling Heights and community partners will soon gather to spread Christmas and holiday cheer to local low-income families.

Starting in early October, the city’s Community Relations Department started to invite qualifying residents to sign up to be placed on a list for its Holiday Assistance Program.

According to city officials, the Holiday Assistance Program has been around for around 20 years, and it assisted 580 families last year by coordinating efforts to give them food, clothing and other goods.

After an October registration period ends this year, multiple charities, churches, schools and businesses will be able to see a list of people in need during a Nov. 2 meeting at the Velocity Collaboration Center in Sterling Heights.

According to Citizen Services Specialist Sue Giallombardo, past partners in the Holiday Assistance Program include the Kiwanis Club of Utica-Shelby Township, The Salvation Army, the Goodfellows and several local churches, including St. Matthias Catholic Church in Sterling Heights and St. Ephrem Catholic Community in Sterling Heights.

Giallombardo said some schools send lists of students who are in need, and those lists are added to the city’s master list.

“There are usually about 600 names on there,” she said.

Giallombardo said the charitable partners may give food baskets to senior citizens, or businesses might give away gift cards.

“It just kind of depends on which organizations adopt each family, and each organization does it differently,” she said.

Program registration will happen from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from Oct. 6 to 27. Sign-ups must be done at City Hall, and residents must bring along proof that they live in Sterling Heights. They must also bring a photo ID, any dependents’ birth certificates, last year’s W-2 form and, when applicable, a state assistance form and any current statements from the Family Independence Agency.

Besides the Holiday Assistance Program, the Sterling Heights Police Department has also run an annual Cops and Kids event in which police officers give money to children from needy families and help them do some holiday shopping.  But Giallombardo said the Holiday Assistance Program and Cops and Kids are two separate programs.

The city of Sterling Heights is not alone in helping out families in need during the holiday season. Tim McAvoy, spokesman for Utica Community Schools, said the school district plays a role in the large network of agencies that come together during that time of the year.

“Our students are part of that network, annually providing support districtwide to more than 200 charities during the season,” he said.

According to McAvoy, the school district receives permission from families before referring them to any supportive agencies. UCS Superintendent Christine Johns also commented on students and their charitable efforts.

“We are fortunate to be part of a community with families that care so deeply for each other,” she said. “The network of support in our schools shows our students the importance of service and supporting local charities, particularly during the holiday season.”

Learn more about Sterling Heights’ Holiday Assistance Program by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2470. Find out more about Utica Community Schools by visiting or by calling (586) 797-1000.