ESCANABA - The holiday season is now in full swing and with it comes the spirit of giving. As Christmas quickly approaches, many local charities are looking to the community for help in their annual holiday campaigns.
The Salvation Army of Escanaba has kicked off its well-known Red Kettle campaign, which benefits many families in need each year.
Last year, the Salvation Army's Christmas campaign raised more than $162,000 and was able to assist more than 560 families and individuals in need through its traditional Christmas assistance programs, including food, clothing and toys.
James Revis, of Bark River, rings a bell outside of Elmer’s County Market Friday morning for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign. (Daily Press photo by Jason Raiche)
"It is important to keep in mind that this campaign is the major fund-raising effort for the Salvation Army each year and represents more than 30 percent of our annual operating budget," said Maj. Ralph Hansen, of the Escanaba Salvation Army, in a news release. "Even though demand for our services has been growing, due to our present struggling economy, the community has stepped up to help us provide 'hope' to our neighbors who are dealing with difficult situations."
Hansen noted the money donated through the Red Kettle Campaign will help many people who never have personally experienced homelessness or poverty until the recent economic downturn. He credits the success of the campaign to the many volunteer bell ringers, canned good drives, donors and other volunteers.
For more information on the Salvation Army's Christmas campaign and how you can help, contact 786-0590.
Local St. Vincent de Paul organizations are also helping families in need.
Betty Lou Tourangeau, organizer of Escanaba St. Vincent de Paul's Christmas baskets distributed to families in need, said the St. Vincent De Paul will be taking names for families until Dec. 1.
Each basket includes food, toys, and usually, clothing.
Angel trees will be set up at the Delta Plaza Mall and local parishes, listing items that people can purchase to place in a family's basket. The Toys for Tots program also supplies them with many toys for the baskets.
"We can do about 400 baskets," said Tourangeau. "And then Holy Name does food baskets for 32 families for us and then we do the toys for those families."
The baskets will all be assembled and sorted at JC's Gas & Welding Supplies building beginning Dec. 18 and will be distributed to the families on Dec. 21. Tourangeau said the St. Vincent de Paul is thankful for all the contributions made from the local community during the holiday season.
"At this time of year, people are usually pretty good," she said. "Like our saying is, 'Help us help others.' Without the help of others, we wouldn't be able to do anything."
For more information on the St. Vincent de Paul's Christmas basket project, contact Tourangeau at 786-7216.
The St. Vincent de Paul in Gladstone has finished two of its can drives recently, but the pantry is still well in need of food, according to food pantry manager Rich Kirchhofer.
Kirchhofer said the Gladstone St. Vincent de Paul will assemble Christmas food baskets on Dec. 22, and noted the upcoming food drives at Gladstone Schools helps their efforts quite a bit.
"We were down in our collections, but it's getting better," he said. "We're getting more and more stuff in almost daily, so it helps."
For those wishing to donate to the Gladstone St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, donations can be sent to 816 Delta Ave., Gladstone, Mich. 49837, Attn. Food Pantry.
The Marine Corps League's Toys for Tots program is another way to give. According to co-coordinator Jerry Hausmann, this year's campaign has gone well so far, with toy donation boxes distributed to 34 locations, most of which are in the Escanaba and Gladstone areas and ranging from Rapid River to Cedar River.
"Last year we had 1,998 children and we provided roughly 8,000 toys for those children," said Hausmann. He noted though there's no way to know how many children they will help this year, he would not be surprised if it reaches this number again due to the number of people who are out of work.
"We work in conjunction with the St. Vincent de Paul and Salvation Army and they provide us the names of most of the children and their ages and sexes so we can get the right toys to the right kids," he explained.
Though the Marine Corps League Detachment 444 is responsible for this area's Toys for Tots program, he said there are three or four other Marine Corps Leagues across the U.P. that run their own. The Toys for Tots program will last until mid-December.
Contact Hausmann at 789-5725 or co-coordinator Bill LaMarch at (906) 280-0909 for more information.
And though their 2012 campaign is nearly over for the year, the United Way of Delta County has raised $128,860 so far this year. This equates to a little more than half of its $250,000 goal, though there are still many workplace campaigns in progress and other individual donations coming in, according to United Way of Delta County Executive Director Julie Mallard.
"We've seen some great successes this year, but overall we are finding donation totals to be very similar to what we saw last year," she said. "Last year we missed our goal by nearly $33,000, so if we are going to make our goal this year we really need to see an increase in this last month of the campaign."
Mallard encourages people to remember United Way in their holiday giving, as people can make a donation in the name of a relative or a friend. With this option, United Way notifies the recipient that a gift has been made in their name, but will not disclose that amount.
"A charitable gift will fit every budget, because even the smallest gifts add up to make a significant impact," said Mallard. Pledges received before the end of the year are counted toward this year's campaign goal.
Those wishing to donate to United Way of Delta County may submit their tax-deductible contribution online by visiting www.uwdelta.org. Donations may also be sent to their office at 1100 Ludington St., Suite 300, Escanaba, Mich. 49829. For more information contact the United Way at 786-3736.