Tis the season of ‘Gifts and Gratitude’

Local organizations partner in charitable holiday shopping program

MANISTEE — To spread the holiday giving spirit, local organizations of Manistee County teamed up for “Gifts and Gratitude” on Thursday, inviting a group of children to shop at Meijer with the help of well-known, local figures.

In previous years the event was known as “Shop with a Cop” or “Shop with a Hero,” but this year there was a slight change.

Ken Babcock, Manistee Meijer store director, said the previous event organizer could not be a part of the program this year. However, Meijer still wanted to be involved with the event, partnering with the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce and ECHO His Love.

“Some personal stuff was going on with the previous organizer of ‘Shop with a Hero,’ so of course, we had to go a different route this year,” Babcock said. “It’s still a need for a lot of children in the area, so we still wanted to participate and contribute to it this year.”

Meijer donated $100 gift cards to 26 local children, who all shopped with local “celebrities.” The purpose was for the children to buy gifts for their entire family, and maybe even get a little something for themselves.

This year, ECHO His Love selected the local children from a list of applicants. Other details were also worked out to make this all happen.

“I believe that the families that get to participate, it makes a difference on the child and gives them a chance to feel like he or she is giving back to his or her own family,” said Lisa Clarke, Family Services director of ECHO His Love.

Participating children were paired with a helper, who assisted in navigating the store and selecting gifts. After the gifts were picked out, volunteers helped the children wrap their presents.

A pizza dinner, sponsored by the Filer Township Fire Department’s Auxiliary, was served to participants. Also assisting this year, was the Ladies First group of Kennedy Elementary.

Before the event began, Babcock said all of the event details were worked out, and volunteers were ready to shop.

“We are eagerly anticipating 26 children, and a number of volunteers,” Babcock said, before the event started on Thursday. “We have a couple of surprises for the kids, and a table ready to wrap up all of the presents.”

The event is a staple not only to the community but to the volunteers, as well.

“It is just great, it is one of our banner events and we look forward to it every year,” Babcock said. “Not just from the community’s standpoint, but our store team members are really excited about it. We are just happy to have it here at Meijer.”

Babcock added that the effort is a collaboration between many people from around Manistee County.

“Manistee is a great teamwork environment,” he said.

The 2018 “Gifts and Gratitude” helpers were from the following organizations:

• Little River Casino Resort;

• Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce;

• Next Generation Learning Center;

• Manistee Ford;

• West Shore Bank;

• Filer Credit Union;

• Knizacky Insurance Agency;

• Packaging Corporation of America;

• Manistee County Board of Commissioners;

• 4Front Credit Union;

• Manistee County 911

• Filer Township Fire department;

• Manistee News Advocate;

• Manistee City Council;

• Manistee Lions Club;

• Project Rising Tide;

• Michigan State Police; and

• Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Department of Public Safety.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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