Residents gathered for the 11th Annual Pancake Breakfast with Santa Claus this month at the New Baltimore Fire Department in an effort to feed, clothe and give gifts to more than 200 area children.
The Anchor Bay Community Giving Tree Holiday Charity Program raised $2,100 on Dec. 5, according to the fire department. The New Baltimore Police Officers Association and the New Baltimore Firefighters Association sponsored the affair.
Sherry Lawfield, chair of the Anchor Bay Community Giving Tree Holiday Charity Program, said it has helped more than 600 families and 1,400 children to date. This year, 57 families with 213 children will receive winter outerwear, wrapped gifts and meals.
"We just want to help them through a hardship for the winter," she said. "This way, the parents can focus on paying their bills."
Families, businesses chip in
More than 200 families attended the breakfast. After making a donation of their own choosing at the door, attendees enjoyed pancakes, sausages and beverages followed by a visit and photo with Santa. Guests were also able to choose a gift tag from the Giving Tree and commit to fulfilling the request. Additional Giving Trees are on display throughout the community, including one at New Baltimore City Hall.
Local churches, community leaders and restaurants also take part in the program. Restaurants including Stevi B's Pizza and Rosie O'Grady's in Chesterfield Township have donated as much as 10 percent of all restaurant sales on designated evenings, event coordinators said.
Anyone can nominate a family to be considered for the Giving Tree program. Recipients are not required to live in New Baltimore. Chesterfield and Fair Haven residents have participated in the program after suffering hardships, such as losing their jobs or homes. Every family in the program is assigned an identification number to keep personal information confidential.
The charitable initiative started in 1999 as a Macomb County Girl Scouts troop Silver Award community service project, said Anchor Bay Community Giving Tree Holiday Charity Program Committee Member Stacy Beckman, who was part of the Girl Scouts. The troop partnered with the Anchor Bay Community Giving Tree Committee and the New Baltimore Police Department 11 years ago.
"It's really great to look around and see all the people you are helping in your community," Beckman said. "It's such a great feeling to be giving around the holidays."
Lawfield said the breakfast is so popular now that little advertising is needed.
"We have several former Girl Scouts who are away at college but still come back to participate," she said. "Those scout lessons carry on forever."
To donate to the program, call the New Baltimore Fire Department at 586-725-0990. For assistance or to recommend a family for the program, call the New Baltimore Police Department at 586-725-2181.