Cheer Club launches today

MARQUETTE – What better way to spread cheer than to give a toy to a needy child during the holidays?

The Cheer Club is a joint effort between The Mining Journal and the Salvation Army to distribute toys to area children. Today kicks off the club’s 35th year.

Jim Reevs, The Mining Journal publisher, said, “It seems like every year we say this, but in checking with the local Salvation Army, it is my understanding that this year the need is greater than ever.”

Reevs encouraged everyone to get involved with a donation of a toy, gift or money to the Salvation Army through the Cheer Club. “For the people that you find hard to buy for,” he said, “how about making a donation to the Salvation Army in their name? That may be the most heartwarming gift they get this year.”

People can drop off toys at either The Mining Journal’s downtown Marquette or Ishpeming office and the Marquette and Ishpeming Salvation Army posts. They also are accepted at the Marquette Township Hall, Ace Hardware in Gwinn and Bell Hospital in Ishpeming. The drop-off deadline is Dec. 20.

The Salvation Army picks up the toys periodically from these sites and then distributes them from its offices. Recipients pick up the toys, which are sorted into age groups, on a first-come, first-served basis.

“So in the end we get happy kids,” said Capt. Cappy Moore, corps officer with the Marquette Salvation Army.

The holidays bring a call to people to help others, and participating in the Cheer Club is one way to accomplish that.

“We want to show the love of Christ to those who are less fortunate,” Moore said.

Moore said toys are accepted for children up to age 14. Gifts such as wallets and watches particularly are needed, he said, for kids in the lower teens who can be hard to buy for.

Kristy Frederick, distribution facilitator for the Marquette Salvation Army, said a gift card is an appropriate gift for that age group.

“It’s not a fun gift,” Frederick said, “but it’s a loved gift at that age.”

Other items that might please a teen, Moore and Frederick said, include headphones, electronic accessories, scarves and hats.

Moore said donors also can get toy ideas from other sources and notice what toys are featured at local stores.

“I suggest anything that’s popular, that you’d see on Nickelodeon and kids’ stations,” he said.

There is no minimum dollar value placed on the toys that can be donated, Moore said. They also should be unwrapped and be “family-appropriate,” eliminating items such as DVDs with questionable content and video games meant for older teens.

The Salvation Army, according to Moore, is the clearinghouse for the donated toys. Potential gift recipients, he said, must show personal identification and proof of residency and income. The target area, he said, is Marquette and Alger counties.

There is a limit of one gift per child.

Moore said while recipients are choosing gifts for their children, they also can pick up groceries and clothes at the Salvation Army, which keeps these items in stock.

The Cheer Club needs more than toys as well.

“It’s helpful if someone would donate large bags, even lawn and leaf bags, for when people pick up items so we have something to put them in,” Moore said.

Monetary donations to the Salvation Army also are accepted – and much needed – as the organization is about $500,000 in the hole, Moore said.

And people still are in need too. In 2012, the Cheer Club served 786 families for a total of 3,414 people.

That was a lot of cheer.

“It’s Christmas, and we’re a Christian nation,” Moore said. “We celebrate the birth of Christ.”

However, that’s not the only reason to donate toys through the Cheer Club, he said.

“From a humanist standpoint, these are long, dark, cold days,” Moore said – and giving a gift can make the days more bearable for a needy child.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.