Susan Kennedy was aware of the American Red Cross assisting the community all year long; however, she felt there was a special need to be met during the holiday season. Recognizing this need, the staff and volunteers began to contact other service agencies so as not to duplicate services. The result was the inception of a community-based program called Project Angel.
The angel in Project Angel stands for “A needful gift equals love.” The committee that founded this program identified a target group of individuals that are on assistance. They hoped that by providing these items in a systematic distribution program, the target group of individuals would be able to save some of their money. The “additional” money, in turn, could be used to purchase holiday items for their families.
During the first year, 35 families, which included 33 children, were served. The volunteers were able to supply toothpaste, toilet tissue, shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, and other miscellaneous cleaning supplies. The recipients appreciated the gift so much because, due to the lack of funds, these items were often luxuries for their families. Now, the program serves more than 500 families and runs year long to help those in need as they are identified. Project Angel began in the Bay County area and now has expanded to Arenac also. They expect to grow and be present in Hurson, Sanilac, and Tuscola Counties this year also.
The project received patronage from local businesses and schools. They sell angels for a donation of one dollar or more. The individual can write their name of the angel and have it displayed to show the support for the project. The Red Cross assists the program by acting as a clearing-house for the acquisition and distribution of the products that volunteers from the community collect. Churches, youth groups, service clubs, small businesses, corporations, and schools all take an active part in the process. They obtain, collect, package and distribute the needed items. More than 200 volunteers work to make this program a success.
The Red Cross has asked that Project Angel be presented at the state level with the hope that the program will be instituted nationally. The fulfillment of these basic needs directly assists many in the community. This, in turn, aids the communities to become more productive and may also help the recipients to decide to also give back when they are able. The founders of the program believe that giving will beget giving, and that will make our world a better place. Providing these basic human needs of baby care, personal care and household care items (unable to be purchased with Food Stamp dollars) also promoted healthy, safe families within the community.
In the year 2000 we distributed packages to 660 families. Included in distribution day were 178 teen paks. The teen paks consisted of fast food and entertainment passes giving teens a safe place to go during the holidays. Volunteers disbursed 660 dozen cookies (that is more than 7,000 cookies) and 660 hand made greeting cards. Project Angel is truly a community supported program.