Charities report on 2016 holiday giving

Haley Gustafson | Daily Press Escanaba St. Vincent de Paul pantry volunteers Jan LeClaire, left, and Karen Berbohm, at right, box up food items from the pantry last week. Many local organizations around the area, including the Escanaba St. Vincent de Paul, helped out those in need this past holiday season with their charitable efforts.

ESCANABA –Throughout the holiday season, charity groups and volunteers from around the area worked diligently to make those who are less fortunate had Christmas that was bright.

At the Escanaba St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, the organization gave out its annual Christmas baskets, which provided a holiday meal and toys for those with children for Christmas.

According to Volunteer Mary Martin, this year the St. Vincent de Paul Service Center in Escanaba provided 367 baskets to families in need.

In order to meet this demand, countless volunteers, including some eighth grade students at Holy Name Catholic School in Escanaba, assembled the baskets, which were then handed out the Friday before Christmas at the Ruth Butler Building at the Upper Peninsula State Fairgrounds.

Gale St. Martin, president of All Saint’s Conference of St. Vincent de Paul, said the group distributed 94 baskets to people in the Gladstone area. The pantry partners with All Saints Church, which also made 95 baskets, making a total of 189 baskets distributed.

St. Martin said the baskets included a full holiday meal, toys, clothes, and other necessities families may need, adding this year was successful. She also extended her thanks to Toys for Tots which provided toys for the baskets, VanDrese Farm for providing the eggs and potatoes in the baskets, John Jilbert for the milk and butter, and for anyone who donated food items, mittens, hats and other goods towards the Christmas basket project.

For the youngsters of Delta and Menominee counties, the United State Marine Corp’s Toys for Tots campaign collected unwrapped toys in boxes placed in stores around the area, to make sure they had something under the tree this past Christmas.

Mike King, Toys for Tots chairman, reported during a Marine Corps League Detachment 444 meeting last week, that this year Toys for Tots volunteers distributed 11,032 toys to 2,758 kids throughout Delta and Menominee counties.

The  Toys for Tots campaign is considered one of the longest-running charity organizations and with the total of toys distributed this year, each child around Delta and Menominee county received four toys each.

Along with toys, the campaign also accepted monetary donations — all of which went back to the kids. King said over the course of the campaign, two local bars held contests to raise funds, with Breezy Point and Cat-Man-Do’s combining to raise $6,187 for Toys for Tots.

In 2015, the Toys for Tots numbers were comparable to this year as 11,040 toys were distributed to 2,795 children.

Another familiar charity, the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign, also took place this year. Volunteers were placed around town, ringing hand bells next to the ever familiar red kettle, collecting monetary donations for those in need as well as raising money for the Salvation Army’s other resources such as their food pantry.

According to a Dec. 24 article in the Daily Press, Escanaba Salvation Army Major Ralph Hansen said this campaign season has had its ups and downs, but overall couldn’t be more pleased with the giving nature of those around the area.

Before the final two weeks of the major fundraising campaign, donations were down by just over $7,000 compared to last year, reported Hansen.

In 2015, the red kettles and mail-in donations reached a total of $180, 887.

Prior to the Dec. 31 cutoff, the Salvation Army had raised $81,571, which is about 44 percent of the $185,000 goal for 2016. The Red Kettle effort ran from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31. Updated totals for the end of this year’s campaign were not available before press time Monday.