Those who work, worship, shop and live in the Fenton area seem to be committed to making contributions to their community. Perhaps at no other time of the year is this more evident than during the holiday season.
From food baskets and toy drives to shopping expeditions and gift purchases, people are finding all kinds of ways to lend a helping hand and spread smiles at the same time.
have always been generous in serving the community, but when they observed an increase of people in need, they formed Fenton Firefighters Charities.
They not only seek to help those in need, but as their Web site states, “plant positive seeds in and around our community for the benefit of the whole community.”
Money raised during two annual major fundraising events, a golf outing and a 5K and 10K run during the Taste of Fenton, is used to contribute to the Thanksgiving Turkey food drive at .
Fenton Township firefighters participate in the annual Shop with a Hero event. Eligible Fenton area students are paired with a firefighter in uniform and given funds to spend, said Dee Grossmann, coordinator for the Christmas Sharing Program at Lake Fenton schools.
Members of the Fenton Township Firefighters Association, the firefighters enjoy spending time with the children and watching them select gifts. Most purchase gifts for their parents, grandparents and siblings, said Fenton Township Fire Department Battalion Chief Ryan Volz.
“They have a smile from ear to ear,” he said.
Funds for Shop with a Hero are raised during an annual golf outing and Fill the Helmet collection drives during the year, said Volz. Individual donors also support the program.
“People are really giving,” he said.
The event is fun and festive with Santa Claus making an appearance and a local business serving ice cream and popcorn, Grossmann added.
“It’s their night,” said Volz about the kids.
The generosity of members at will allow them to take care of approximately 20 families in the Fenton area, which includes 31 children, said Debera Bard, Christmas coordinator. Special collections for Deacons projects throughout the year provide some of the necessary funds, but many individuals and families “adopt” a family for the holidays as well.
Bard said the Christmas baskets include food as well as clothing like pajamas, jeans and undergarments for children age 18 and younger, a toy for those in the family age 12 and under and a VG’s gift card so the family can purchase perishable items like milk.
“It’s a nice, plump basket,” she said.
Everything is kept strictly confidential to maintain privacy.
“The need is so great. What we think is a little bit is a lot to the families,” said Bard.
in Fenton lightens holiday stress by providing parents with funds to purchase gifts for their children at a local retailer. On a typically chilly December day shortly before Christmas, families meet at the store, then the parents go off in search of the perfect present while their children head to an activity area for supervised fun.
Kids make crafts, enjoy hot chocolate and meet Santa, said Faye Jones, Freedom Center secretary. While the amount of money parents have to spend is yet to be determined as it’s based on an upcoming donation collection, last year parents were given $25 per child, she said.
“We see people in need and that’s what we are called to do,” said Jones.
Kiwanis Club of Fenton members usually have visions of turkeys – approximately 150 of them – dancing in their heads a few days before Christmas. That’s when they gather together with Fenton High School Key Club students to sort and pack about 100 Christmas food baskets for those in need in the Fenton area.
“We will also service about 50 families in the Lake Fenton area,” said Kiwanis member Donna Peters.
A lot of planning and hard work goes into making the basket distribution possible, but club members make it a joyful experience. They donned Santa suits during Jinglefest and headed out into the community at North and Adelaide as well as inside The State Bank. Members also collected food items at . Fenton High School Key Club members spearheaded a food collection drive in the Fenton schools, she added.
“We will use the funds collected to purchase about 150 turkeys, bread, potatoes, cereal, peanut butter and jelly to include in Christmas Baskets for the needy in Fenton and Lake Fenton,” said Peters.
Baskets will be delivered or some families will pick up their baskets at the old on Dec. 22.
“A lot of people, this is all they are going to have for the holidays,” she said.
Fenton schools also pair up with the Fenton Rotary Club to help out those in need, said counselor Michelle Pietraszkiewicz. The Fenton Rotary Club’s Angel Tree program distributes clothing and gifts to families thanks to the efforts of the Rotary members, school staff, community members and local businesses who take an angel form listing family needs anonymously from the tree and shop for the children, said Chad Brennan, Fenton Rotary member and co-owner of The French Laundry.
He said response to the program is tremendous as many, many people generously donate items to make the holidays merry for everyone.
Making Christmas morning special is the goal of as well. The church has several groups that fundraise throughout the year in order to sponsor families who need assistance with purchasing Christmas gifts, said Kim Chase, administrative assistant.
For a gift that lasts all year round, the Fenton Lions Club provides funds for people in need who require prescription eyeglasses. Since July, the club has provided 15 pair of glasses, said Carole Smith, a Fenton Lions Club member who, along with fellow member Kim Verhelle, is in charge of sight conservation efforts for the club.
The club partners with Fenton school counselors who refer children in need, said club president Dick Lynch, so children can maintain good vision for their studies and other activities.
Fenton High School special education teacher Sally Averill and counselor Vicky Russell have seen firsthand how the Lions Club’s efforts are impacting students. Students whose glasses break may be upset because they know their family will have a difficult time replacing them, for example.
“It’s a great resource,” Russell said about the Fenton Lions Club.