2009-12-27 / Front Page

WRAPPING UP WISHES

Community donations fulfill Christmas wishes for 250 families
By Hillary Grigonis Staff Reporter

WRAPPING UP – Darlene Dowen wraps a gift as volunteers organize presents at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Hall on Dec. 19, just a few days before families arrived to pick up their packages. About 250 families received gifts and food for Christmas through the program (TCC Photo By Hillary Grigonis). WRAPPING UP – Darlene Dowen wraps a gift as volunteers organize presents at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Hall on Dec. 19, just a few days before families arrived to pick up their packages. About 250 families received gifts and food for Christmas through the program (TCC Photo By Hillary Grigonis). CHESANING – A plethora of gifts, wrapping paper, bows, bags and volunteers filled the Our Lady Parish Hall last week. To organizer Darlene Dowen, the group was simply trying to make Christmas good for anyone they could.

About 250 families were able to unwrap gifts and wishes, wrap up in a warm blanket and wrap up Christmas day with a meal, thanks to volunteers and donors working with the Chesaning Area Emergency Relief (CAER) center.

Dowen organized a gift program that allowed volunteers to add the wishes of a family in need to their Christmas shopping lists. Anonymous wish lists were turned into paper ornaments for giving trees at local churches and businesses. Volunteers could choose an ornament from the tree and help fulfill their Christmas wishes.

Dowen’s crew then worked to wrap and organize gifts and add extras, like 300 homemade blankets and an extra 600 toys. Through the program, households that applied for assistance were able to receive both gifts and food. About 250 families in the southern section of Saginaw County, including the Chesaning, St. Charles, Brant and Oakley areas, received assistance.

Dowen said one of the reasons she conducts the program is because she has also had hard times in her life. “It gives me great satisfaction to help someone else that is where I used to be,” she said. “There was no program like this when I was in need.”

“It has been a very rewarding experience,” she said, “and that’s what my workers say—it’s a heartwarming feeling.”

A wide range of volunteers were able to help in the project, including high school students who donated 100 blankets through Key Club and volunteered through the National Honor Society. Chesaning Area Friends of the Library donated books for the project. Community members worked for over a month to make homemade blankets to add to the gifts.

Dowen, who has headed up the gift project for the past three years, said her home is often overrun with gifts. She picks up gifts and donations year round for the program and then spends four months organizing the project.

“Anyone else might get a little stressed out and testy, but not Darlene,” said volunteer Angie Meder. “Everyone gets a hug from her, when you arrive and when you leave. She is always smiling and cheerful.”

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