By Andrea Grimaldi
FOR OVER 30 YEARS THE HAZEL PARK HOLIDAY BASKETS PROGRAM has provided local families and senior citizens with meals, gifts, and winter gear, while also providing students with a hands-on charitable experience. From fundraising to donation gathering and sorting, the Holiday Baskets program is a community-wide effort only growing better with each passing year.
Each year, families and citizens in need can apply for a free gift basket at any Hazel Park school, the Library, City Hall, or the Fire and Police Stations. All applications returned by December 2nd are considered. The only requirements are Hazel Park residency and financial hardship. Pick-up confirmations and reminders are e-mailed, and the day of distribution is a private event with a small number of volunteers for a discreet delivery. Basket pickup takes place at Webb Elementary (2100 Woodward Heights Blvd. in Ferndale) on December 14. In the past, the committee aimed for nearly 400 baskets each year. However, the past two years saw a decrease in applications down to 250-275 baskets – still an impressive feat, but hopefully a sign of less families in need.
Each family and household receives one basket, which contains a variety of canned goods, cereal, and other nonperishable foods, a $25 Kroger gift card, and a holiday ham (packed separately). This is enough for a filling holiday meal with extras to pack the pantry. Hats, gloves, scarves, and socks are also included, as well as board games and books for each child in every family. The baskets are created specifically with each family in mind based on the applications.
ALL DONATIONS ARE WELCOMED AND ENCOURAGED. Donated canned goods go far for this project. Newly purchased books, toys, board games, and winter gear are also needed. Monetary contributions help ensure every specific item is available for every basket, and bulks up the reserve fund for next year. Donations can be dropped off at any Hazel Park school or at the Ford Administration Building at 1620 E. Elza Avenue in Hazel Park until December 12th.
Hazel Park students are encouraged to donate or hold canned food drives and fundraising events. The students also help with organizing the donations, giving them hands-on experience with giving back to their community. Local businesses have played an integral role through the years with generous donations and financial contributions.
Volunteers will gather on December 13 at Webb Elementary from 8:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. to package the baskets. The volunteers include students, school staff both current and retired, residents and legislators. The day has a social feel with old friends and colleagues catching up and working together toward an amazing goal.
DR. AMY KRUPPE, HAZEL PARK SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT and member of the Holiday Baskets committee, describes the process as nothing short of inspiring. “We are really lucky to have this amazing group putting this together. Hazel Park is a wonderful city to live and work in, with so many people opening their hearts.”
Donations can be dropped off at all Hazel Park schools, as well as the Ford Administration building. Volunteers are welcome to join on the packing day, December 13. All questions or volunteer/donation inquiries can be answered on the Holiday Basket hotline at (248) 658-5210.