'Tis the season for giving
MANISTIQUE – ’Tis the season for giving, and residents around the county are contributing to local charities and causes. In fact, the recent surge in seasonal donations has benefitted three charitable organizations in particular.
According to John Sherman-Jones, community resource coordinator for the Alger, Marquette and Schoolcraft Department of Human Services, the annual Schoolcraft Community Giving Christmas Program has had a successful 2012 season. The program involves a collaborative effort from the Schoolcraft DHS, Manistique Ministerial Association, and numerous volunteers.
Working together, the program participants form the Schoolcraft Christmas Committee, which provides local families in need with Christmas gifts for children, as well as a Christmas meal for the family.
“For 2012 we helped a total of 281 families (695 individuals) with food vouchers for Christmas meals, which also includes 285 children with gifts for Christmas,” explained Sherman-Jones.
Families participating in the program are deemed eligible by the DHS and receive their packages approximately 10 – 12 days before Christmas. According to Sherman-Jones, the toys for the program come from local “Giving Trees” and the Toys for Tots program. In recent years, he noted the monetary donations, for the Christmas years, have dropped.
“We … depend upon monetary donations to pay for the food vouchers that go out to all of these families,” he explained. “That costs us around $7,500 to $8,500 a year and for the past few years we have received less than that in donations are having trouble sustaining that effort.”
This year, the program received an extra boost from Tom and Julie Faunce of Outreach Ministries. According to Sherman-Jones, the pair recently brought hundreds of primarily new winter coats hats and gloves for the families of the program. Last year, the donation of coats was made to Alger County children.
“I know it is important for people to know that donations stay primarily within the community (which they do with the Schoolcraft Community Giving Christmas program) but I think sometimes people forget that poverty and families in need don’t stop at the county, state or national lines,” explained Sherman- Jones. “Tom is a good example of someone who understands this … So it is good for our community to know that other communities reach out and help another community and can we can all widen the circle of caring when we are able to.”
At the local Good Neighbor Services, recent food donations have boosted their pantry, which is available for any family or individual in need. According to Margo Withey, the pantry recently received approximately 3,200 pounds of food from an area food drive.
“The amount is down from last year, but that’s just a sign of how bad things are going in the economy,” she said.
Despite the decline in donations, Withey explained that the number of those in need has only increased.
“This last year has been the busiest year that we’ve had since they shut down the food pantry at DHS,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot heavier traffic now.”
The recent supply of food typically won’t last long, she explained, noting that most of the high-demand items, such as macaroni and cheese, tuna fish, peanut butter, sugar and flour will be gone before the end of the Christmas season.
Canned items may last into next summer or fall, Withey added, but the pantry will continue to accept any donations to support those in need. Drop off hours at Good Neighbor Services, located at 331 Deer Street, are Mon. – Sat. between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Donations such as dish and laundry detergent, as well as toilet paper and paper towels, are always needed, Withey said.
The food pantry located within the St. Vincent de Paul Store also received approximately 3,200 pounds of food from the recent food drive. According to Dan Barber, pantry supervisor, the amount of food brought in is a testament of a good natured community.
“We are doing real well right now,” he said. “People in town have been very, very generous. Last year, we collected over $18,000 worth of food, and so far this year, we have collected $18,900 worth.”
In his six years at the pantry, Barber said the community has brought in approximately $93,000 worth of food donations.
While the canned goods recently received will last in the pantry until about July or August, Barber noted that the pantry will continue to accept donations. Items such as pancake mix, oatmeal and meats tend to be in higher demand.
A new, bigger pantry will be opened by the store in the spring, Barber added, which will allow space for even more food items.
The St. Vincent de Paul Store is located at 221 S. Cedar Street. For pantry hours and donation details, call 341-8811.