Grinch visits Madison Heights Public Library

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published December 14, 2018

 A young boy meets the Grinch, played by Madison Heights City Councilman David Soltis, during a Youth Assistance event at the Madison Heights Public Library Dec. 1.

A young boy meets the Grinch, played by Madison Heights City Councilman David Soltis, during a Youth Assistance event at the Madison Heights Public Library Dec. 1.

Photo provided by David Soltis

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MADISON HEIGHTS — The Grinch may not be the real Santa — he’s far too lean and green to pass for the genuine article — but ever since his redemption at the end of Dr. Seuss’ classic tale, he’s been bringing Christmas cheer all the same.

That’s what kids who attended a recent event at the Madison Heights Public Library learned. The Dec. 1 event was presented by Madison Heights Youth Assistance’s We Are Family Committee, which aims to provide free or low-cost recreational programming for families to help create the strong bonds that keep children out of trouble.

The program was also made possible with the support of the Madison Heights Women’s Club and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, based in Madison Heights.

Madison Heights Police Chief Corey Haines read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to the kids, and then they roamed the library, searching for candy canes hidden throughout, including special green candy canes that would win them Grinch dolls. There were also cookies and hot chocolate for everyone to enjoy.

But things got really exciting for the young ones when the actual Grinch showed up, or at least Madison Heights City Councilman David Soltis in a Grinch outfit, including an oversized mascot head with mesh eyes. He sat down in a chair, and the kids lined up to meet him and take pictures.

“None of them told me what they wanted for Christmas, though,” Soltis laughed. “But there were kids giving me hugs and high-fives. Some of the older ones looked through the mask’s eyes and told me, ‘Hey, you’re a person!’ It was just so much fun. And it was also great because there was so much diversity — all different ethnicities and cultures.”

Soltis is a former chairperson for Madison Heights Youth Assistance. He said it remains an ongoing challenge finding ways to keep kids on the right path.

“I think our youth and our children are our future, and we need to treat them accordingly. I think that we need to really focus on making sure that we provide these children a loving, stable and supportive home environment,” Soltis said. “I think that if we can find a way to stop the abuse, neglect and maltreatment that sometimes occurs at home, then you won’t have issues such as truancy and youth crime. It’s all connected.”

The idea for the Grinch event was conceived by Amy Schroder, the volunteer board secretary for Madison Heights Youth Assistance and co-chair of the We Are Family Committee. The plan is for it to become an annual event.

The primary goal of Youth Assistance is to prevent and reduce child abuse, neglect and juvenile delinquency, diverting youths out of the court system and preventing them from going through the system in the first place. The organization offers confidential counseling with a caseworker, referral services and family support groups, plus skill-building scholarships and camp scholarships.

Youth Assistance also hosts a recognition breakfast in the spring and a bowling fundraiser in the fall, and during the past year, the group has been discussing possible ways to be more involved in the community. Last month, it started a dialogue with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office on different programs it can provide to local youths.

“We’re hoping to have something available for our residents this spring,” said Madison Heights City Councilwoman Roslyn Grafstein, the council’s representative for Youth Assistance, who brought her daughters to help set up and hide candy canes for the 50-plus kids in attendance.

“The We Are Family Committee believes that providing families opportunities to play together, learn together, build family traditions and experience a positive sense of community are crucial parts of helping to strengthen our families, and to build resilience to address some of the many stressors our families are challenged with every day,” she said.

To learn more about Youth Assistance, visit www.mhya.org.

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