UNITED STATES NEWS

Fire upends Christmas charity in Michigan but thousands of kids will still get gifts

Nov 30, 2023, 2:05 PM

Donations are pouring in at a beloved Christmas charity after smoke damage from a fire stymied plans for the delivery of wrapped gifts for thousands of children in western Michigan.

Santa Claus Girls of Kent County has been going door-to-door with gifts for more than a century in the Grand Rapids area, delighting families that are struggling during the holidays.

But the all-volunteer group has been scrambling since a fire last week struck a building in Walker where Santa Claus Girls wraps and stores gifts.

“It was like my heart stopped,” president Tina Hudson told The Associated Press. ”We were on target to service more than 10,000 kids on Dec. 9. We had half of our gits wrapped and bagged and ready to go out the door.”

The good news: Flames didn’t reach the area used by Santa Claus Girls. The bad news: Smoke filled the space for hours.

“Everything’s contaminated — that was the word that was used by the insurance company,” Hudson said Thursday. “You could smell a bonfire smell.”

The holiday isn’t lost. Santa Claus Girls will instead deliver gift cards for 8,500 children to be used at Meijer, a local big-box store. Hudson wouldn’t disclose how much each family will receive but said the cost will be covered by insurance.

“Come heck or high water, these kids are going to have some kind of Christmas from us,” she said.

Meanwhile, cash donations “are flooding in” as a result of the fire, Hudson said.

The group already was trying to raise $200,000 for Christmas 2024 and had topped $100,000 by Wednesday, she said.

“There are a lot of giving hearts in the greater Grand Rapids area,” said Hudson, her voice cracking.

Some gifts might be OK to use next year. But Santa Claus Girls won’t know until each package is inspected in the months ahead. The packages contain pajamas, blankets, books, toys and handmade hats.

And they make a difference.

“My son got some PJs last year that he loved and he hasn’t been able to take them off not even to wash. We have to sneak them away to wash them. … Thank you for all you do!” local mom Salma Odaly said on Facebook.

___

Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez

United States News

Associated Press

Judge orders anonymous jury for trial of self-exiled Chinese businessman, citing his past acts

NEW YORK (AP) — A self-exiled Chinese businessman is set to face an anonymous jury at his trial next month on fraud charges after a judge on Wednesday cited his past willingness to tamper with judicial proceedings as reason for concern. Guo Wengui goes to trial May 22 in Manhattan federal court, where jurors will […]

39 minutes ago

Associated Press

New California rule aims to limit health care cost increases to 3% annually

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies in California will be limited to annual price increases of 3% starting in 2029 under a new rule state regulators approved Wednesday in the latest attempt to corral the ever-increasing costs of medical care in the United States. The money Californians spent on health care […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Judge declines to dismiss lawsuits filed against rapper Travis Scott over deadly Astroworld concert

HOUSTON (AP) — A judge has declined to dismiss hundreds of lawsuits filed against rap star Travis Scott over his role in the deadly 2021 Astroworld festival in which 10 people were killed in a crowd surge. State District Judge Kristen Hawkins issued a one-page order denying Scott’s request that he and his touring and […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Louisiana dolphin shot dead; found along Cameron Parish coast

CAMERON, La. (AP) — Up to $20,000 is being offered for information leading to a criminal conviction or civil penalty involving a dolphin that was found shot to death in southwest Louisiana. Federal wildlife officials, in a news release Monday, said a juvenile bottlenose dolphin was found shot to death March 13 along the coast […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Oklahoma prosecutors charge fifth member of anti-government group in Kansas women’s killings

GUYMON, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma prosecutors charged a fifth member of an anti-government group on Wednesday with killing and kidnapping two Kansas women. Paul Jeremiah Grice, 31, was charged in Texas County with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder. Grice told an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Sister of Mississippi man who died after police pulled him from car rejects lawsuit settlement

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A woman who sued Mississippi’s capital city over the death of her brother has decided to reject a settlement after officials publicly disclosed how much the city would pay his survivors, her attorney said Wednesday. George Robinson, 62, died in January 2019, days after three Jackson police officers pulled him from […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Fire upends Christmas charity in Michigan but thousands of kids will still get gifts