Local businesses, organizations get ready to give this holiday season

By Kelly Bauer

DeKalb is gearing up for the season of giving.

Several local organizations and businesses have started collections for their annual charities. Merlin 200,000 Miles Shop, 1812 Sycamore Road, is collecting a variety of winter clothes to distribute to impoverished families. The DeKalb Area Women’s Center, 1021 State St., is running a coat drive. The DeKalb Police Department’s Police Benevolent and Protective Association has also started its own charity: Shop With a Cop.

The police department is working with Target so several children chosen with the help of the DeKalb School District can each choose $100 worth of Christmas presents. The presents will be delivered to children the week before Christmas, and the children have a chance get their picture taken with Santa for free, according to a press release. Angel Reyes, President of the Police Benevolent and Protective Association, said that donations of money and items will be accepted to help fund the program, which is sponsoring ten children this year.

“They can choose gifts for their family or gifts for themselves,” Reyes said. “From talking to other agencies that do this kind of program, [the campaign] gets donations from businesses and the store that’s sponsoring this would also donate, and then it becomes pretty much self-sustaining. So, we’re hoping it will get to that point. I want to anticipate that we will get bigger every year.”

Other organizations are also accepting donations: Merlin 200,000 Miles Shops are asking for winter clothes, while the DeKalb Women’s Center is collecting coats.

“Each year we help about 40,000 kids and their families overcome overwhelming obstacles,” said Matt Gibbons, Merlin 200,000 Miles Shop general manager. “We give them coats, hats, scarves, mittens. For a lot of people in a lot of impoverished areas, they don’t have heat or they don’t have anything to go outside in.”

Gibbons said the drive, called the Snug Hugs for Kids campaign, is run at all Merlin shops. The collected winter clothes go to Children’s Home + Aid Dec. 7 as part of a procession where Merlin’s employees meet up at one location and pack the boxes into vans, then drive together to donate the items.

“We go in a huge parade from one Merlin’s location to an inner-city donation area and we make a huge assembly line of Merlin’s employees,” Gibbons said. “We hand the boxes out of trucks into this one area where they are opened, unpacked and folded by volunteers.”

Gibbons said locals often donate knitted or crocheted items, and a woman donated 100 knitted hats last year. He said he enjoys his work with the clothing drive.

“It was fun. There’s a lot of energy, nobody with any kind of bad attitude,” Gibbons said. “We all take time to work and try to help out.”

DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen said these charities and others like them are “a tremendous thing in the community.”

“Children’s Home and Aid is a great organization,” Povlsen said. “It’s always heartening to see when top businesses partner with these charities, these social service agencies, to help them. You see it quite often in the community.”