Kathy DiBartolomeo

Stuff-a-Stocking for Seniors makes return with help from Caesars Windsor

 

 

Special to the RTT

 

After returning from a brief trip out east last December, Carol, 80, came home to find a bright red Christmas stocking filled with gifts at her front door.

This year, thanks to a donation of $1,500 from Caesars Windsor as well as continued support from Amherstburg and LaSalle residents, Carol will be one of over 300 seniors to receive a gift from the Stuff-a-Stocking for Seniors program.

The Stuff-a-Stocking for Seniors program, which is organized by Amherstburg Community Services (ACS), collects small gifts from the community and puts them into Christmas stockings that are then delivered to seniors in Amherstburg and LaSalle. According to ACS executive director, Kathy DiBartolomeo, the aim of this program is to reduce the feelings of loneliness and isolation faced by seniors.

Amherstburg Community Services is currently accepting donations to help “Stuff-A-Stocking for Seniors” this holiday season. The River Town Times staff stuffed stockings and mugs last week to bring to ACS for the event. Donations will be accepted until Nov. 29 at their 179 Victoria St. location between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Fridays. They are looking for toiletries, winter wear, homemade cards, stockings and monetary donations.

“Senior loneliness and isolation is a serious problem that can be highlighted during the holidays,” DiBartolomeo said.

DiBartolomeo continued by saying that the contribution from Caesars Windsor, which will also be sending staff to help pack and sort the stockings, makes a huge difference.

“I cannot tell you just how much we appreciate their contribution – this will allow us to help more seniors than ever before,” she said.

After her experience last year, Carol says that the impact of this program is certainly felt by individuals like her.

“It actually made me cry because I had lost my husband only months before that, so the holidays were a difficult time for me,” Carol explained. “It was truly wonderful to open that up and see all the love that was packed inside. I’ll never forget it, and I made sure that every item in that stocking went to good use.”

ACS will be collecting donations for the program until Nov. 29. Small gifts such as gloves, socks, scarves, toiletries, small treats and candies, Christmas stockings, and homemade holiday cards, as well as monetary donations are needed and can be dropped off at ACS’ office at 179 Victoria St S in Amherstburg.

Drop-off boxes will also be set up at the Vollmer Complex in LaSalle and the Libro Credit Union Centre in Amherstburg. Seniors can be signed up by themselves or by others by calling ACS at 519-736-5471.

Secret Santa Benefit Dinner popular again at Mealtime Express

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Mealtime Express once again gave people a chance to have a chicken dinner and help local children at the same time.

The ninth Secret Santa Benefit Dinner was held Sunday evening at the Sandwich St. S. restaurant with the public responding favourably again in 2017. The final total of what was raised amounted to $9,270.50.

“We’ve pretty much sold all the tickets,” said Norm Mickle, who owns the restaurant with wife Janet.

Mickle said they have had businesses come forwarded with a wide variety of raffle prizes, adding Mealtime Express is very grateful.

“Everyone is volunteering their time,” he said. “We’ve donated the restaurant and the food and all of the proceeds go to local kids.”

The Secret Santa Benefit Dinner was held Sunday night at Mealtime Express. Staff volunteered their time to be there and were joined by Santa & Mrs. Claus. It is a partnership between Mealtime Express, the Amherstburg Police Service and ACS.

Once again this year, Mealtime Express teamed with Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) and the Amherstburg Police Service on the toy drive aspect of the Secret Santa program. ACS helps buy and distribute the goods with Amherstburg police also assisting with a toy drive as well. Mickle said they are happy with the partnership.

The Secret Santa program has been a big success in Amherstburg in its first eight years, he added.

“We’ve helped 200 families and over 500 kids over the first eight years,” said Mickle. “Local kids have received over 3,000 gifts right off of their Christmas lists. It’s actually gifts the kids want for Christmas.”

Mickle called the program “a real community affair” and now team with ACS and Amherstburg police after handling it themselves the first number of years.

“Everyone has their role. It’s perfect,” said ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo. “It’s a great partnership between the three of us. It only helps us get bigger and reach more families.”

Const. Nathan Harris, who helps organize the Amherstburg police toy drive with the aid of wife Ashleigh, said it is in its fourth year with the first three having gone well. Harris said the community seems to have rallied behind the toy drive and they have been able to help a good number of families in Amherstburg.

“We’re hoping to be as successful, if not more, this year and to continue to spread Christmas cheer,” added Harris.

Coats for Kids program strong in Amherstburg

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The annual Coats for Kids program has received a solid response in Amherstburg.

The program is administered locally by Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) under the umbrella of the Unemployed Help Centre of Windsor. ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo and community awareness/fundraising co-ordinator Austin Tyrrell agreed that the support from the Amherstburg community was tremendous.

“We had some very generous donors this year,” said DiBartolomeo. “The community was very generous.”

Tyrrell pointed out that there were 100 articles of clothing distributed to just over 50 children in the first three days alone.

“It’s pretty steady,” Tyrrell said. “There’s a lot of people who have never used the service before.”

Amherstburg Community Services executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo (left) and volunteer Christina Bezaire stand with some of the coats that were available at the ACS office.

Tyrrell estimated that it was the first year of participation for at least half of those who stopped by the ACS office.

“We collected a lot,” he said. “We had a lot of support. It says a lot about the spirit of our community that we get the support we do.”

Amherstburg Public School collected a lot of coats for the Coats for Kids project while the Nifty Needleworkers, a group of women who knit and crochet every week at the Gibson Gallery, also made their annual donation.

DiBartolomeo said that is an example that “community supports community.”

Distribution continues Friday (Nov. 10) from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and DiBartolomeo said they will still likely distribute coats to those in need early next week.

Amherstburg Community Services is located at 179 Victoria St. S. For more information on the list of programs and services they offer, call 519-736-5471 or visit www.amherstburg-cs.com. They are also found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AmherstburgCS or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ACSAmherstburg.

Ticket sales for Mealtime Express’ annual Secret Santa Benefit Dinner underway

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

An event that began as a way to simply give back to the community that gave so much to them, has grown into a well-known fundraiser and partnership within the Amherstburg community.

“I think it’s a real testament to our community that three Amherstburg organizations are able to work together to help residents who are less fortunate,” said Austin Tyrrell, community awareness, fundraising coordinator for Amherstburg Community Services. “I think all of us have seen a neighbour or friend struggle, and I think I speak for everyone at ACS, Amherstburg Police, and Mealtime Express, when I say that we are immensely proud to provide not just a gift, but an experience that these families and their children won’t soon forget.”

The Secret Santa Benefit Dinner returns Nov. 12. This photo was taken at the 2016 event.

Norm Mickle, who’s wife Janet has owned Mealtime Express restaurant in Amherstburg for more than 29 years, explained the Secret Santa event began as an extension of an Essex Mission Program, which gathered specific gifts for kids in the Essex area.

“The staff at Mealtime would take kids names from the mission along with what they wanted for Christmas and go out and buy those gifts,” said Mickle. “We then loaded them up and took them out to some of the most wonderful people we ever met, Ilene and Ed Clifford. Their home looked like Santa’s workshop.”

Mickle explained, Janet decided they could turn this into something more for the kids in the Amherstburg and surrounding communities. This is where the idea for the first annual Secret Santa Benefit Dinner was born. In that first year, Mickle said they raised about $4,000, which went directly to local kids Christmas lists. In eight years, they have been able to help more than 200 families, and more than 500 children.

Last year alone, they raised $10,000.

“I do not have to knock on doors for raffle prizes. Local businesses call us to see what they can do to help,” said Mickle. “You see, it’s a win, win, win, win situation for all involved. The folks that buy tickets for the dinner get to help local kids win. The local businesses who sponsor us get to give back to the community that supports them win. The volunteers, from our family, the Mealtime Express Staff, Amherstburg Community Services and the Amherstburg Police services all get that warm fuzzy feeling knowing how much help they are, win. And of course, the kids getting Christmas gifts right from their Christmas wish list win. You wrap this all together and everyone’s contribution adds up to helping change a child’s life and they are given the gift of hope for their future. Over the years we have received anonymous donations from families that were once visited by Secret Santa.”

ACS is taking care of getting in touch with families in need of these gifts, while the Amherstburg Police Services will be collecting donations, and on November 12, Mealtime Express will host their Secret Santa Benefit dinner. For tickets, please visit Mealtime Express. They are $20 each, and are only sold in advance, with a takeout option available.

The ticket includes a three-piece chicken dinner, with fries, coleslaw, a beverage and cake for dessert. There will also be a raffle, gifts for everyone who attends as well as an appearance from Santa and Ms. Claus. For more information, please contact Mickle at (519) 816-7189.

“Each year has truly been a blessing and once again the Secret Santa program has started to grow again,” said Mickle. “Santa represents the smile on your face whether you are giving or receiving during this celebration. I’m not asking anyone to believe what I believe in. Jan and I chose this way. Through Santa Claus we can give the gift of Christmas to those in need and to us this is the greatest gift of all. Without the support of so many people we could not do this, so, for some unknown reason we are blessed to do this and hopefully for years to come.”

Coats for Kids collections taking place in Amherstburg

 

 

Special to the RTT

 

As winter approaches, families across Essex County are faced with a real dilemma – how will they afford appropriate winter clothes.

The Coats for Kids program has helped families like this for over 30 in Windsor-Essex, and once again, Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) will collect and distribute warm, winter clothing to Amherstburg residents.

“For many people, buying winter clothing for their entire family simply isn’t an option next to paying their energy bills or putting food on the table,” ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo said.

Last year, ACS provided nearly 200 winter coats to Amherstburg residents.

“It’s incredible to see how much support we’ve had from people donating their winter clothing, and I think that sends a clear message to struggling families: your neighbours care about you,” she said.

ACS will be accepting donations until October 31.  The winter clothing will then be distributed from ACS’ office at 179 Victoria St. S. from Monday, Nov. 6 until Friday, Nov. 10.

Families can register to receive clothing by calling ACS at 519-736-5471.

Donations of winter coats are most needed to meet the demand in Amherstburg, but warm socks, gloves, hats, scarves, and sweaters will also be accepted.  People can drop off their gently used winter-wear either at ACS’ office, or at the Libro Credit Union Centre at 3295 Meloche Road.

The Coats for Kids program in Windsor-Essex County is a collaborative that is headed by the Unemployed Help Centre in Windsor.