Monday, November 23, 2009

Help Send Santa to Baghdad started six years ago

Today is packing day at the National Guard Armory on Wilder Road in Bay City.
More than a hundred volunteers will converge on the armory, starting at about 8:30 a.m., to pack boxes with donated Christmas gifts to mail to our troops serving in the Middle East. The burst of activity marks the final phase of this year's Help Send Santa to Baghdad campaign.
I plan to attend packing day later this morning. It's a great atmosphere and a great way for all to launch the "giving season." Volunteers are as busy as woodpeckers hammering away on an oak tree most of the morning.
Hopefully, the last week of the campaign has been a big success. The last time I checked with organizers, donations of cash and gift items were down from last year when nearly $10,000 and five tons in gifts were raised.
Help Send Santa to Baghdad is sponsored by The Bay City Times and run by a group of volunteers, mostly veterans. I started Send Santa while working at The Times six years ago. The first year, I sent out packages myself from my office at the newspaper.
In my weekly column, I told readers about the effort and they responded by sending donations to the newspaper. In one column, I wrote that since our troops could not come home for Christmas because they were fighting for freedom in the Middle East, then we should send Santa to Baghdad.
That's how the name was born. It caught on and took off. Friends Johnny Burke and Blondie started pushing the campaign on WHNN-AM and volunteers showed up out of nowhere.
Help Send Santa to Baghdad has grown each year. Through the years, we've sent more than 10 tons in gift packages to troops from Northeast Michigan. It's the least we can do for our soldiers, who are sacrificing so much.
If you can help - either by packing boxes or donating cash or gifts - then show up today and volunteer. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Huron Area Writers Group meets for first time

Last week, the Huron Area Writers Group met for the first time.
I must say I am pleasantly surprised at the number of folks who showed up and the impressive writing credentials they brought with them.
In addition to Dennis Collins, my partner in crime on this venture and a published author, we had a woman who writes for the New York Times online, the Thumb-area's premiere writer and photographer - Bill Diller, a Web designer and media consultant from Bay Port, a marketing whiz from Caro, a poet from Kilmanaugh, and a variety of others who have been writing and developing stories for years.
I think we had 14 people show up at the Pigeon District Library, which rests comfortably on main street in downtown Pigeon. Additionally, almost everyone who attended reported that they knew of at least one other person who wanted to attend but couldn't make it.
That includes me. My co-worker, Adam Damm, got tied up while chasing after flu vaccine in Toledo and could not make the meeting. Adam, like several others who were reportedly unable to attend, is a very talented writer.
I'm looking forward to our next meeting. We're going to exchange reading and writing materials, listen to and then discuss a short reading of fiction from a HAWG member who is in the process of turning it into a story.
All very exciting!