LSSM Staff to Welcome Operation Good Cheer Gifts Arrival by Truck

LANSING, MI – – Lutheran Social Services of Michigan (LSSM) staff members were on hand, Saturday, December 2, to meet a truck when it delivered gifts for foster children in this year’s Operation Good Cheer. The truck, supplied by Meijer, arrived at the LSSM Lansing office, 801 S. Waverly Rd., in the late morning. “It’s usually between 11 a.m. and 12-noon,” said Rosie Martin, LSSM Operation Good Cheer coordinator in Lansing.

  The truck left from a makeshift distribution center in the Pentastar Aviation hanger at Oakland County International Airport in Waterford (northwest of Pontiac). Also, planes delivered gifts to 16 airports across the state. LSSM staff waited for their arrival at the Northern Air hanger at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids and at the Duncan Aviation hanger at Kalamazoo Airport. “As the planes come in, we greet them and help unload all of the gifts and load them in the van to take back our office,” said Joan Lutke, LSSM foster care supervisor in Grand Rapids. LSSM caseworkers will deliver the wrapped presents to the appropriate foster home, relatives’ home or parents’ home for the children to open on Christmas.

Operation Good Cheer was started by a group of Ford Motor Company employees in 1971, when they pooled their money they were spending on Christmas cards and instead put it toward buying gifts for 66 children. Today, Operation Good Cheer is coordinated and sponsored by Child and Family Services of Michigan, based in Okemos. The program this year will benefit 4,535 children in foster care, residential treatment, and group homes sponsored by 40 private child and family social service agencies.

In August, the LSSM foster care caseworkers met with the children on their caseloads and/or their foster parents or parents to identify the needs and wants of each child for Christmas. The wish list has six items, with one being clothes, and a donor purchases three gifts from this list for the foster child. Each gift is not to exceed $50 in value.

“We actually have 201 donors now who purchase the gifts for the children,” said Angie Baker, Operation Good Cheer program coordinator for Child and Family Services. On Friday, Dec. 1, 2006, about 20 companies volunteered trucks and fuel, and drivers donated their time, to gather the gifts from 29 drop-off points in Dearborn, Plymouth, Canton, Farmington Hills, Van Buren Township, Wayne, Detroit, Troy, Auburn Hills, Southfield, White Lake, Howell, Ann Arbor, Northville, Livonia, and Okemos. The trucks will deliver the gifts to Pentastar Aviation at the Oakland airport to be sorted and prepared by hundreds of volunteers for Saturday delivery by plane and truck. Last year, 180 pilots flew for the program.