Volunteers at the Charles A. Conklin Post 28 in Grand Haven packed 32 family boxes Monday and 12 more Tuesday. They only stopped because they were waiting for more clothing to be delivered by the Women’s Auxiliary. Some of the financial donations are used to purchase a set of clothing and pajamas for each child.
Organizer Ray Ribbink said the recent snowy weather is causing a little bit of a slowdown in the shopping process, but they still have several days to get everything done before the Dec. 23 distribution. Once all of the boxes are packed, a wrapping party will be held Dec. 21, before the distribution begins through The Salvation Army.
“Most of this is what came in this year,” Ribbink said as he looked around the large, second-floor room at the American Legion building on Harbor Drive.
About a quarter of the donations are held over every year to give volunteers a head-start on the process.
Most of the items being packed were donated through the recent Firefighters Crusade for Toys throughout the Tri-Cities area. Fire departments participating in this year’s event included the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety, Grand Haven Township Fire Rescue, Ferrysburg Fire Department, Crockery Township Fire Department and Spring Lake Fire Rescue.
Volunteers get a numbered box with the ages of all family members. The tables are piled high with toys, organized by age range.
Ribbink said 144 families with 351 children are being served this year through the program.
Families register through The Salvation Army, and those registrations have to be completed by Thanksgiving.
Crusade for Toys drop boxes are still located at several municipal offices and businesses in the community. Ribbink said that once the boxes are collected, donations may still be dropped off at the American Legion post.
“We’ll take stuff all year long,” Ribbink said. “Last year in January, local stores donated a lot when they cleared their shelves.”
Cash donations are also a big part of the Goodfellows project. Ribbink said the money is used to buy clothing and hygiene items. Some money is also used to support the local backpack programs, such as Blessings in a Backpack.
The Goodfellows have been helping Tri-Cities-area children have a good Christmas for more than 70 years. Grand Haven firefighters joined the effort in 1959 and other fire departments have jumped in to help since that time.