Members of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services distributed gifts through Toys for Tots at Lincoln Elementary School Dec. 11.

Members of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services distributed gifts through Toys for Tots at Lincoln Elementary School Dec. 11.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Local students, educators give others a merrier Christmas

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published December 16, 2020


WARREN/CENTER LINE/STERLING HEIGHTS — As 2020 comes to a close with COVID-19 on everyone’s mind, some aren’t feeling the Christmas spirit.

Families are struggling financially due to loss of income or employment because of the pandemic.  

A number of local students — with help from staff — are doing their part to make sure others have a happier holiday season despite their circumstances. Most activities were planned virtually.

Last month, Academy of Warren staff members provided 10 school families with a Thanksgiving dinner in which faculty donated nonperishable and canned foods. Diamond Hospitality, a restaurant management business located in Southfield, donated turkeys and other items. The families picked up their dinners Nov. 20 and also received food from the Gleaners Mobile Pantry.

In early December, the National Technical Honor Society of the Warren Consolidated Schools Career Preparation Center held a virtual food drive that concluded Dec. 18, after press time. Under the guidance of CPC NTHS advisors Tiffany Sonnenberg and Heather Britt, the students organized the drive to benefit the Gleaners Community Food Bank.

“NTHS is all about doing services to help the community. Being in the situation that we are in is a little more difficult, so we must get creative. The students during our meetings brainstorm ideas,” Sonnenberg said in an email.

The Gleaners Community Food Bank, headquartered in Detroit, operates five distribution centers in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Monroe counties that provide food to soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters throughout southeast Michigan.

The NTHS members set up the drive and made flyers to promote it. With Principal Carlie McClenathan’s help, they posted information about it on the CPC’s social media and the district’s webpage. Donors could link to the food drive online to purchase grocery store items or make a monetary donation.

Other districts played Santa Claus. Fitzgerald High School and Fitzgerald Middle School both had a “giving tree” where an Amazon wish list was created to provide food baskets for district families in need. On Dec. 11, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services personnel distributed toys through Toys for Tots in Van Dyke Public Schools. The MDHHS has a Pathways to Potential program in the district.

“Pathways to Potential is committed to working with our community partners to remove any barriers to students succeeding. It was great to be able to partner with Van Dyke Public Schools and Toys for Tots to help children and their families enjoy the holidays,” Stacy Zwicker, MDHHS Pathways to Potential success coach for McKinley Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools, said in a prepared statement. “Our staff was touched by the many emails we received from parents thanking us.”

In Center Line Public Schools, schools headed up collections from staff and parent groups to purchase foods, various items and gift cards for needy families within their buildings. According to Sue Pauling, CLPS assistant to the superintendent/communications director, a local YMCA held an adopt-a-family program for two Center Line High School families. The goal was to provide a holiday food basket and approximately $100 per family member in Christmas gifts.

The district was to receive a financial donation from Crest Ford employees for its Blessings in a Backpack program, which provides meals on the weekends to disadvantaged students. A couple of Ford employees also wanted to provide gifts to a family or two in the district.

Warren Woods Public Schools staff and students also opened their hearts. Warren Woods Tower High School collected over $10,000 to purchase gift cards for families in need. Westwood and Pinewood elementary schools received monetary donations to adopt families for the holidays. Briarwood Elementary collected donations for Gleaners.

The district also operates the volunteer-based Warren Woods Public Schools Food Pantry and Clothes Closet strictly for all families in the district. It’s located at Warren Woods Middle School, and Fred Huebener is the manager. Students ask their school counselor or social worker for access.

The nonprofit entity is always accepting the following items: toiletries, combs, brushes, feminine products, clothes for kids grades K-12, underwear, socks, winter outerwear, backpacks, and nonperishable foods. All items must be new; used items and glass are not accepted. Donations can be dropped off during school hours at the district’s Administration Center, 12900 Frazho Road, between Hoover and Schoenherr roads.

When the pandemic began, the district partnered with two nonprofit agencies to provide groceries to anyone in the community.

Free groceries, provided by the Macomb Food Program, will be distributed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Monday through Jan. 4, with the likelihood of the program continuing after that. The Gleaners Mobile Food Bank provides groceries from 2 to 4 p.m. every other Tuesday and will continue through June 2021. The next event is Dec. 29, followed by Jan. 12 and Jan. 26.

“If anyone needs food, we want them to come up and get it,” Huebener said.

Items for the Clothes Closet and Food Pantry also can be donated at the food distributions.