Toys distributed: Cheer Club Concludes 39th Year

Marquette Salvation Army Case Manager Jamie Ray, right, walks through the “toy shop” with volunteer “shopping elf” Kelly Ray at the Marquette service center on Thursday in anticipation of a client’s arrival. About 80 percent of the toys and monetary donations for this year’s Salvation Army Christmas giveaway came through The Mining Journal Cheer Club. Hundreds of families in need received help as a result of the joint effort between St. Vincent de Paul, The Salvation Army and the Journal. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

MARQUETTE — The 39th annual Mining Journal Cheer Club has come to a close and donations of toys, clothing, and monetary gifts have once again have made their way under the Christmas trees of hundreds of Marquette County families in need.

Every year for nearly four decades, the Mining Journal has collected hundreds of toys and other items at its Marquette and Ishpeming locations. The items are then distributed with the help of community service organizations like The Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul.

This year’s toy drive is estimated to have helped over 500 families county-wide; about 100 through St Vincent de Paul in Gwinn; another 100 through the St. Vincent de Paul Marquette location; 125 families via the Marquette Salvation Army location and 188 in Ishpeming.

Both the SVDP Christmas Toy Giveaway, and the Salvation Army “Shopping day” were held on Thursday.

St. Vincent de Paul, which also receives toy donations from Toys for Tots – a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve, served 253 children this year in its Marquette location alone, SVDP store manager Denise Arbelius said.

In addition to the Cheer Club, Toys for Tots and personal donations, 40 SVDP employees and volunteers made the gift distribution seamless, she said.

“If it wasn’t for our community helping us help others we would not be able to do it. We are just a vessel.” Arbelius said. “It blows my mind sometimes. I just get such joy, it’s overwhelming. The joy in people’s faces, you can just see that their Christmas is taken care of – and it takes such a weight off of their shoulders.”

Jamie Ray, Case Manager at the Marquette Salvation Army said over 600 children were served from the Marquette and Ishpeming toy distribution.

Every donation, every volunteer and every family is important, Ray said.

“A lot of the people we serve on a regular basis, this is it for them. This will be their Christmas.”

Salvation Army Capt. Doug Winters said the Cheer Club provided roughly 80 percent of the toys and monetary donations distributed by the Marquette and Ishpeming locations this year.

“Already this morning I have seen two ladies that were so overwhelmed with the generosity, because they might not have any Christmas at all were it not for the Cheer Club,” Winters said on Thursday. “It’s very important.”

In addition to the Thursday’s toy distribution, over 60 families were served with the Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family program, as well as individuals and families with the Great Lakes Recovery program, Winters said.

Arbelius said the need does not stop just because the Christmas season is coming to a close, organizations like hers are always planning for the next thing.

For Christmas, SVDP gives what Arbelius calls “new fashion basics” to each family member, she said.

“I like to give four to six pairs of socks and three to four pairs of underwear – because those are things that are just hard to find second hand.” Arbelius said. “It’s (the Christmas give away) is over now, and I am already thinking we can take inventory and start re-buying.”

At the start of this year’s drive on Nov. 24, Mining Journal Publisher Jim Reevs said the Cheer Club effort is an exciting undertaking each and every year.

“It’s been amazing to see the community’s generosity and appreciation toward the Cheer Club over the years,” Reevs said.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is