Reprinted with permission. Originally published in the Argus-Press.
VERNON TWP. — Twenty-one families are having a big Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings Thursday, thanks to the selfless efforts of employee volunteers from Great Lakes Fusion and their spouses.
After packing turkeys, stuffing, potatoes, pie, vegetables, rolls and cookies in roaster tins, wrapping them up with festive cellophane and bow, and attaching a greeting card, the group personally delivered the dinners to homes in the Laingsburg, Lennon, Corunna, Owosso and Vernon areas.
“One mom reached out and grabbed my hand and said, ‘You don’t know how much it means to us,’” said Jamie Nichols, accounts payable and safety coordinator at Great Lakes Fusion.
“There are so many families in our area who are in need, and we wanted to share a meal with them and give them hope. Everybody needs a warm meal in their belly.”
Names of families were supplied by area school districts, and dinners were customized to match the size of the family — in more than one case, 10 family members.
The recipients were very appreciative, volunteers said.
“We got a lot of thank-yous and hugs,” said Wally Brooks, manager/salesman for Great Lakes Fusion and Ready Mix Fusion. “Some of the kids approached me — it kind of touches you.”
Company owner Bryan Marks and wife Tammy Marks delivered a dinner to a large family whose matriarch insisted all seven children stand in a row and thank them for the gift.
The $1,000 turkey giveaway is part of Project Pay it Forward, a new company initiative to help residents who could use a helping hand at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For Christmas, the group is planning to spend $2,500 on 25-plus bicycles for children who might not get one from Santa otherwise.
A workshop for assembling the bikes will be held at Great Lakes Fusion.
Funds for both drives were proceeds from a fundraiser golf outing last July. In previous years, all the money was given to the Shane Cantu Scholarship Fund.
However, in view of the abundance of giving to the scholarship fund, Great Lakes Fusion employees decided to use part of the golf outing money to seed a Project Pay it Forward committee. Their stated aim is to “strive … to keep the dream alive in Shiawassee County.”
Riverside Market in Durand has pitched in, either donating or selling at a discount the food used at Project Pay it Forward events. Committee members are appreciative of the store’s generosity, Brooks said.
Other Project Pay it Forward fundraisers are planned, including a casino trip in March, another golf outing July 15 and a “machine rodeo” — contests between people driving trucks, tractors and other vehicles and a touch-a-truck event for children next spring or summer.
“We plan to keep the Thanksgiving and Christmas programs going,” Brooks said. “It seems like there are so many people in need around here, but nobody recognizes it. If we can raise money to give like this — or even more — every year, that’s a great thing.”