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 Clinton Township firefighter Stephen Dalton helps Zayden Bidigare, 8, and his mother,  Felicia Bidigare, both of Clinton Township, find Nerf toys Dec. 14 at Meijer in Clinton Township as part of the annual Shop with a Hero event.

Clinton Township firefighter Stephen Dalton helps Zayden Bidigare, 8, and his mother, Felicia Bidigare, both of Clinton Township, find Nerf toys Dec. 14 at Meijer in Clinton Township as part of the annual Shop with a Hero event.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


First responders partner with Meijer to provide Christmas gifts for kids

By: Nick Mordowanec | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published December 27, 2019

 Michael Skinner, 11, of Clinton Township, shops with Mount Clemens firefighter  and paramedic David Buscaino.

Michael Skinner, 11, of Clinton Township, shops with Mount Clemens firefighter and paramedic David Buscaino.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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MOUNT CLEMENS/CLINTON TOWNSHIP/HARRISON TOWNSHIP — The holiday season is about treating others more than you treat yourself. Just ask firefighters from Clinton Township, Harrison Township and Mount Clemens.

It was the seventh year for Shop with a Hero — an annual gathering at the Meijer store on Groesbeck Highway in Clinton Township — in which local first responders shop with children and families.

There were about 10 Clinton Township firefighters involved this year, along with one from Harrison Township and three from Mount Clemens. Each child received $125, in addition to a Meijer gift card. Parents were even given Christmas hams along with groceries before departing.

Clinton Township Fire Department Battalion Chief Paul Brouwer said it was the biggest attendance yet, with 30 kids from 14 families. He said some firefighters even pulled money out of their own pockets to donate, which “really drove home” the overarching message of benevolence.

“It just goes to show you there are a lot of people hurting out there. … Thirty kids got some stuff they wouldn’t have ordinarily ever gotten,” he said. “It makes us feel good.”

Clinton Township firefighter Adam Simon said it seems like Meijer goes all out more and more each year. It’s all worth it when you see moms and dads crying with happiness, Simon said.

“You just see the smile on our faces and the kids’ faces,” Simon said. “It’s just joy.”

Even a middle school band from L’Anse Creuse Public Schools took part in the festivities, playing music while Santa walked around with the children and made their day.

For the last four years, social worker Linda Brook has helped facilitate the process of finding local kids and families who could most benefit from this event. She is a social worker at Clintondale Public Schools, as well as Simon’s aunt.

“(My aunt) loves these families and we get to see the families on a good day, finally,” Simon said. “We’re used to seeing them in an emergency, when they call us.”

Brook said she got involved in 2015. She and Simon were at a family gathering and he had mentioned this particular event. Brook chimed in and mentioned her role as a social worker, and the rest is history.

“(The families express) 100% complete and utter appreciation, excitement,” Brook said. “No one has ever been apprehensive about it at all. They’ve felt very blessed.”

Children and families are picked for different reasons. Some have referred themselves or have previously reached out for help. Sometimes, teachers notify Brook. Others may have serious events taking place in their lives, such as medical issues, trauma, tragedies or living transitions.

The intent, she said, is for kids to “shop with role models” while parents temporarily “forget about any worries or concerns” they might have.

“It speaks to the generosity of the season,” Brook said.

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