As the holiday season adds financial strain on low-income residents, Sterling Heights has teamed up with public and private service organizations in an effort to streamline holiday assistance programs.
The Sterling Heights Community Relations Department plan to compile a master list of families needing assistance, as it has over the past two decades, from which service organizations can adopt as many families listed as possible. The city’s Holiday Assistance Program provided gifts, food, and clothing to more than 400 families last year, but because of the effects of COVID-19, city officials warned that resources this year could be limited.
“Each year, families and non-profits struggle to serve as many deserving families as they can with their limited resources,” said Community Relations Director Melanie Davis. “It is more important than ever to deliver volunteer aid services in the most efficient manner possible.”
One partnership is with Michigan-based retailer Meijer, to provide assistance to local families facing food insecurity through a hunger relief program called Simply Give. The program encourages customers to purchase $10 donation cards, which are then converted into Meijer food-only gift cards and given to a local food pantry in the store’s community.
Sterling Heights city officials point to uncertainty around COVID-19 guidelines and wage disruptions placing extreme pressure on low-income families and food pantries, and said they have seen a rapid increase in demand in the community. In the Simply Give program, residents will be able to receive donation cards purchased at the Meijer store on Van Dyke Avenue and Metro Parkway now through January 2, 2021. In addition, Meijer will double match any cards purchased on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1, and Saturday, Dec. 12, effectively tripling contributions made on those days.
“The events of this year have taught us all the importance of community members supporting each other,” said Davis.
“The holidays are a difficult time for people facing food insecurity and food pantries continue to struggle to keep up with the flood of requests they receive daily, especially given the difficult circumstances many families now face amidst the global pandemic,” said Cathy Cooper, Senior Director of Community Partnerships and Giving for Meijer. “The Simply Give program is a way for Meijer customers to partner with us and support the food banks and pantries that feed families in need in their own communities."
Those needing assistance, and those who are not presently on a holiday aid list, can request that their information be placed onto the city’s master list. Individuals seeking assistance for the upcoming holiday season can apply by visiting the city’s website and completing the registration form
before Nov. 6. To qualify, families must reside in Sterling Heights, meet federal low-income standards as stated on the form, and have not received assistance from the program more than three years in a row.