DETROIT: What do you get when you gather 175 children, 65 volunteers, limitless activities filled with nothing but fun — and a surprise visit from Santa Claus?
Why, it’s the annual SAY Detroit/A Time to Help Christmas Party to benefit shelter women and their children at The Salvation Army Harbor Light.
Hosted by SAY Detroit founder Mitch Albom and his radio show co-host Ken Brown, the 21st edition was a smash hit Saturday (Dec. 1), brightening the day for dozens of mothers and their children who are in need of holiday warmth and cheer this time of year.
“It was wonderful, the best ever,” said Elaine Marion, director of shelter operations at Booth’s women and children family shelter. “Some of them don’t have family to go to, some of them are grieving. This party gives them a space to enjoy themselves; we can be their family. It’s important to make everyone feel close, welcomed and wanted – and they had a great time. Great music, great games and great fun.”
A holiday store staffed with volunteers assisted the mothers in shopping for new clothing. Guests and children were treated to snacks in the morning and a pizza party sponsored by Shield’s at lunch. Other activities for the children — all run by volunteers — included games, dancing, face painting, caricature drawings and performances by 12-year-old Isabella the Magician. Moms were treated by massages and manicures — just enough time to relax before Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived to deliver presents to the children.
Longtime ATTH volunteer Joanne Steele has helped at more than a dozen parties over the years; this year she worked the registration/info area helping check in volunteers, pass out T-shirts and name tags, and answer questions.
“The parties embody everything ‘Christmas’ for me — happy smiles and love over simple things: dancing, Santa, a meal, cake, presents,” she said. “I especially love seeing the moms smile when I ask to see their newly manicured nails or their beautiful face-painted face. I volunteer to share the blessings God has given me; I do it for others. Selfishly, I also do it for me because it makes me feel so good.”
SAY Detroit is grateful to so many companies and individuals who sponsored the party, including Peter Andoni, Paul Palozzolo, Costco, Kroger, the Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation, Southfield Pediatrics and UPS.
SAY Detroit would also like to thank its army of ATTH volunteers who hosted the party and donated items, including the “captains’’ of the activities. The nonprofit sends a special shout-out to Elaine Marion and Capt. Jamie Winkler for their support and hard work in making this year’s event so special for so many.
See you next year!
Detroit — We’ll know for sure on Saturday, but the preliminary results were more than encouraging.
For the first time ever, A Time to Help added a second event (aka pre-gamer) in advance of SAY Detroit’s annual Christmas Party to benefit The Salvation Army Harbor Light in Detroit: a decorating party to get the Ellen A. Thompson Center all gussied up before Saturday’s big day for shelter residents and their children.
The reason was two-fold. The first was because registration for the Christmas party traditionally fills up quickly; having another event offered ATTH to include more volunteers during the holiday season. The second was to catch the volunteers who want to be involved, but are unable to help on the day of the party.
Sue Schuldeis and Leslie Reaser were in the second category; scheduling conflicts prevents both from volunteering Saturday.
“I’m so glad I came,” Leslie said. “This has really put me in the holiday spirit.”
A Time to Help is glad she came, too. Nearly 20 volunteers worked Friday afternoon to ensure that Saturday’s party will be a success for The Salvation Army’s clients and shelter residents. Holiday tunes blared from speakers as volunteers strung lights, hung wall decorations and set up the stage and tables.
“This was a great idea,” said Elaine Marion, director of shelter operations at Booth’s women and children family shelter. “It takes a lot of the pressure off for tomorrow, and gives everyone more time to have fun.”
Detroit — It was a stunning transformation, from beginning to end.
Where there was overgrown shrubbery and vines, a fence line emerged. Where there was once an attic filled with debris, the possibility of a future bedroom appeared.
For three hours Saturday, two dozen A Time to Help volunteers embraced and tackled a major clean-up project at a house that SAY Detroit will soon donate on Detroit’s northeast side to benefit its Working Homes/Working Families program.
Led by SAY Detroit founder Mitch Albom, the volunteers worked to clean up the property, inside and out, to prepare the house for rehab before it’s awarded to a family in October.
“The project completely changed the home from overrun and overgrown landscaping to something out of ‘House Beautiful,’’’ said Chris Johnston, SAY Detroit’s lead volunteer liaison for ATTH. “The team just pitched in trimming and removing many years of neglected landscape and even planted spring bulbs for the deserving family to enjoy.”
ATTH’s next project will be Oct. 13; details will be posted later this week.
DETROIT — As always, it was a team effort from the start.
One group assembled on Richton Street, another on Monterey. A third tackled the area near the John C. Lodge Service Drive.
For three hours on Saturday (July 14), more than 30 volunteers from A Time to Help weeded, weed-whacked, swept, shoveled, raked — and much more — to help beautify the area around Cass Community Social Services’ Tiny Homes neighborhood.
It was a robust effort on a hot and humid morning; the group consumed three cases of water by the end of the project. SAY Detroit founder Mitch Albom said he profoundly appreciated the work of the volunteers, especially under the circumstances.
SAY Detroit’s ATTH program has participated in volunteer activities at Cass Community for years, including the last two with projects to benefit the nonprofit’s Tiny Homes: In 2016, ATTH helped create the blueprint for the homes by taping measurements on the floor of Cass Community’s warehouse; in 2017, ATTH painted a tiny home and cleared an area of debris to prepare it for construction.
On Saturday, ATTH made it three in a row with a landscape project spearheaded by Sue Pethoud, Cass Community’s church and community relations liaison.
“Tiny Homes are for poor people, and it’s not just a temporary move, but a chance for economic mobility,”, said Faith Fowler, executive director of Cass Community.
Nearly a dozen volunteers who participated Saturday were ATTH first-timers, including Jane and Terry LaFlamme.
“I love this,’’ Jane LaFlamme said. “I love the camaraderie, that we’re making a difference. We’re trying to give back because we’ve been so blessed.”
Perhaps the best thing about Saturday’s (June 9) A Time to Help Project at Buckets of Rain was that the weather didn’t live up to the name of the nonprofit we were helping.
Sure, there was a sprinkle here and there — enough to postpone the painting portion of the project at Founder Chris Skellenger’s four-acre urban garden on Glendale Avenue in Highland Park, across the street from the S.A.Y. Detroit Family Health Clinic. But Buckets of Rain made sure our 20-member group kept busy.
Happily joined by two first-time ATTH volunteers, the team picked and sorted produce, planted seeds, cleaned garden beds, cut the grass, weed-whacked, picked up trash — everything associated with helping the nonprofit in feeding the homeless and needy in the community.
Karen Gilbert and John Magnuson of Motor City Paint-Shelby Paint & Decorating even delivered freshly picked vegetables to a shelter after their shift.
Once again, S.A.Y. Detroit is grateful to Motor City Paint for donating the paint needed for the shipping container; eventually it will be transformed from bright orange to green. Chuck Schaeffer said the company plans to work with Skellenger next week to get the project completed.
Buckets of Rain provides 100,000 servings a season of produce; 95 percent of the donations it receives are used to maintain the Highland Park garden.
ATTH’s next volunteer project is scheduled for July 14 at Cass Community Social Services. Details will be announced in the next week or so.
Pontiac — Unload, sort, package. Repeat.
In assembly line fashion, more than 20 A Time To Help volunteers joined S.A.Y. Detroit founder Mitch Albom and radio show co-host Ken Brown on Saturday (May 19) at Lighthouse of Oakland County for one of the largest one-day food drives in the country.
For nearly three hours, the volunteers unloaded a semi-truck filled with donated food items and prepared the goods for distribution at Lighthouse, which since 1972 has been serving residents of southeastern Michigan who face economic hardship by providing the support and resources they need to move toward self-sufficiency.
The project was joined by several first-time ATTH volunteers, including Dolores and Bob Harris of Bloomfield Township.
“I so admire the mission of S.A.Y. Detroit and the mission of Lighthouse,” Dolores said. “What I like most about today is the opportunity to work with others on a team project to help the community.”
James McQueen, pantry manager at Lighthouse, said that the group unloaded and boxed more than 2,000 pounds of food.
“They did an excellent job,” McQueen said. “Helping families in Oakland County to provide meals during the summer, which the students always get when school is in session — this will increase our inventory, which will better enable us to serve them.”
ATTH’s next project is scheduled for June 9 at Buckets of Rain, a nonprofit urban garden which provides fresh produce for the needy and homeless. More information on the project will be posted when registrations opens later this week at atimetohelp.org.