Donated goods brighten season for families
Hundreds of food items, gifts collected, distributed in Lansing
The true spirit of Christmas, as defined by Frank Capra and Peanuts' Linus, is alive in Lansing.
About a dozen volunteers worked Friday afternoon to brighten the season for 28 struggling Lansing families, sorting hundreds of food items and gifts to distribute to selected families.
The effort was part of the Mayor's Christmas Tree Program and included Lansing PRIDE committee members and Lions Club and Kiwanis members. Recipient parents picked up the food and gift packages that night at Lansing Activity Center.
Vicki Sperl, Lions member, said the effort was important because "we have a lot of needy families to help out. It's a good cause."
Several organizations, including the city and all four Lansing public schools, contributed to the effort through donations of food and money. The Mayor's Christmas Tree Fund paid for gift certificates good at local grocery stores, and Lansing residents and city employees bought gifts matching wish lists on a Christmas tree at City Hall.
Sunshine Petrone, assistant city clerk, estimated that city employees put in 100 man-hours organizing the program this year, not including the time Parks and Recreation employees spent collecting food, mostly canned items, from schools last week.
City employees compiled the list of families eligible for the program, determined by their income and number of family members. The city sends applications to new recipient families whose names are submitted by churches, schools and other organizations, said Rick Dodson, Lansing Lions Club secretary.
Gift wish lists for the children of recipient families were then hung on the "Angel Tree" in City Hall. Residents could then pick paper ornaments from the tree, purchase the requested items and bring them to City Hall. City employees also bought some items using money from the Mayor's Christmas Tree Fund.
Petrone said the most popular gifts were Harry Potter books, movies and toys, especially Care Bears.
One Lansing woman who received food and gifts Friday night said the program "really means a lot to me and my three children." The woman, who declined to give her name, said she was a single mother who worked full-time and attended school, and that she had been struggling this Christmas season.
"I got sick and I missed three weeks' worth of work" earlier this year, she said, and she receives no child support.
Another Lansing single mother, who gave her first name as Brandy, said she had been financially prepared to treat her 10-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter this Christmas, but that her car broke down before Thanksgiving, requiring her to spend $600 on repairs.
Brandy said she worked at a local Dollar store and that she received video games and clothes in the gift bundle for her children.
She said that although some of the items on the wish list for her kids weren't included, the donors had included a note explaining that they weren't available and enclosed receipts for the purchased items in case the children already had them or the clothes didn't fit.
"I thought that was really nice," she said.
Brandy said the donated boots for her son didn't fit and that he already had a video game in the bundle, so she exchanged them for a stereo for him.
Both women said they'd been able to successfully hide the presents from their children.
Brandy said this would be a good Christmas for her and her children because of the Mayor's Christmas Tree Program.
"It's better to have something under the tree than nothing," she said.