HAZEL PARK – Once upon a time the Grinch tried to steal Christmas. But last month, he helped Hazel Park Youth Assistance brighten up the vacation instead.
On December 18, the two teamed up to whip up Grinch-themed surprise gift bags at Hazel Park Recreation Center for those in need of a little pick-me-up.
The Grinch – actually played by Payton Poteat, 17, of Madison Heights, in a furry bodysuit – was the star of the “Grinched” event, the first of its kind hosted by the HPYA. Payton’s mother, Ryann Voss, helped design the gift bags.
During the day, the two traveled through Hazel Park, with Payton’s Grinch posing for photos and videos they posted on Facebook, helping promote the deliveries, which included freebies for recipient families with children.
“The response from the community has been amazing,” said Voss.
Beverly Hinton, president of the HPYA, said she gathered the list of recipients by asking community members for the addresses of families – no names were collected – as well as the number of children in each household.
“We chose 100 (houses) for financial reasons, and it was doable for delivery,” Hinton said. “Because of COVID, we didn’t have a party and we didn’t want 100 people to come looking for this. “
Donations came from Hazel Park First United Methodist Church, Wilson & Wilson PC, Landmark Community Church, Kozy Lounge, Hazel Park Public School Teachers Union and several residents, including a retired teacher.
The value of each bag was $ 30 and each included a $ 10 food certificate, stuffing, canned vegetables, instant potatoes, spaghetti and gravy, pudding, applesauce, popcorn, crackers, cookies, candy canes, hot chocolate, juice, a deck of cards, and a puzzle or activity book.
Fifteen volunteers got together to pack and deliver the merchandise. Among those who helped for several hours were Hazel Park Firefighters, City Manager Ed Klobucher and his wife, Judge Brian Hartwell and his wife, as well as members of the Hazel Park Youth Assistance Committee, and Ryann and his daughters. .
“They all had a great time working together,” Hinton said.
She said the event was created in the spirit of the Hazel Park holiday baskets, a tradition that has been disrupted due to the pandemic.
“When people needed it the most, I thought it was important to do something for the people here at Hazel Park,” Hinton said. “I thought HPYA was about children, so we could limit that to them, and it wouldn’t be charity because we wouldn’t take income claims.
“The Grinch theme was perfect with COVID, because people are stuck (inside), the kids don’t go to school, and the Grinch was about his heart growing three times its size caring. from others, and he brought Whoville a lot of joy when he returned the gifts, so I thought, who couldn’t use a little joy now with the COVID situation, ”Hinton said. “So the program became fun. “
The HPYA has not had any other programs this year due to COVID, she noted.
“Before this (pandemic) hit, we bought a beautiful little beagle as a therapy dog and named her Hazel. We had a lot of plans with her. However, this did not materialize due to the pandemic,” Hinton said.
The holiday event helped brighten up what had been a dark year for community groups all over the world. Hinton said the family photos posted on Facebook of smiles on the children’s faces made the effort worthwhile.
She said people can call if they want to volunteer in the future, when things start to get back to normal: (248) 582-9125. The group operates out of an office at the Webster Early Childhood Center, although no one is currently there due to the pandemic. Still, someone is checking the voicemail messages.
HPYA helps fight substance use and abuse among adolescents and young adults in the community. The nonprofit organization has been operating in Hazel Park since 1953. It was the start of a model that has since been replicated in school districts in Oakland County.
Voss said she was proud to be part of an event that made so many people happy.
“These two women, Bev and Payton, deserve great recognition – Hazel Park Youth Assistance and the volunteers behind the scenes as well,” said Voss. “But these two are the reason this event was such a success.”