Santa's First Responders Holiday Party Continues to Help Local Families In Need
Santa's First Responders pose for a photo in front of one of two vans filled with toys for local kids.
HASLETT - The 31st Annual Santa’s First Responders Holiday Party took over Haslett Middle School on Saturday afternoon.
This year the party was converted into a drive-up event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You can’t put a price on a kid that has the biggest smile on their face, they’re so happy they’re getting something, it’s exciting for them,” said retired first responder, Jim Huff.
Retired Meridian Township Police Officer and Founder of Santa's First Responders, Gayelord Mankowski, and about 20 volunteers spent $10,000 on new toys during a shopping spree with the fundraised money the day before the event.
“We picked really expensive toys, and really nice somethings, kids will be happy,” said Mankowski. “I saw a lot of smiles today.”
Around 150 local families attended the event this year. Families also had their choice of meat to take home with them.
“With the help of the DNR we were able to get an elk, get it processed and get that food out to the public,” said Mankowski. “Along with some hams and some venison from Meridian Townships Deer Management Program.”
First responders from Michigan State University, Meridian Township and East Lansing, and some of their families, helped out at the event. Volunteers from local school districts and their families also made the event happen.
“Next year we’re going to be back with a vengeance with bands, more kids,” said Mankowski. “But I’m very happy how we were able to pull it off.”
This year, the holiday party also adopted a fostered family of eight kids, that have never known Christmas before.