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Operation Good Cheer again comes to area

Presents dropped off at Sawyer International Airport

Gifts for area youngsters are unloaded on Saturday at Boreal Aviation at Sawyer International Airport for Operation Good Cheer. The program is an annual, all-volunteer, Christmas gift-giving effort to benefit kids. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

K.I. SAWYER — It wasn’t exactly Santa’s sled, but the planes loaded with presents that landed on Saturday morning at Sawyer International Airport had the same purpose: providing holiday cheer.

Teaching Family Homes of Upper Michigan teamed up with Child and Family Services of Michigan Inc., and 78 other social service agencies in Michigan for Operation Good Cheer.

CFS has sponsored and operated the program since its inception in 1971, granting holiday wishes to Michigan children in foster care. Gifts are distributed via plane or ground transportation to recipients living in group homes at places such as TFH, foster care homes or residential treatment facilities. Many of them had been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.

Each child in Operation Good Cheer creates a “wish list” with six gifts they want for Christmas. Donors buy and wrap gifts from these lists, which then are taken to drop-off locations where they await transportation to Oakland County International Airport in downstate Waterford.

Local presents reached their destination on Saturday so kids could have a merrier Christmas by having something to unwrap and play with later.

Jennifer Santer, chief executive officer of TFH, watched Saturday’s event.

A purpose of the event, she said, is to put some joy — which often has been lacking — in the kids’ lives.

“A lot of our kids come from an abusive, neglectful situation, or even a low-income situation, so sometimes presents just weren’t an option for their families or they didn’t care,” Santer said. “So, a lot of these kids really haven’t seen a nice Christmas or maybe haven’t gotten that many Christmas gifts in their lives.

“We just try and give them a good Christmas while they’re with us, find some joy. These kids have not had much joy in their lives sometimes.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also was represented at the event.

“It gives our kids an opportunity, who are in foster care, at least for us, an opportunity to have a better Christmas than maybe they would have had, just based on the fact they’re in a foster home,” said Kyle James, foster care worker with MDHHS. “Foster parents are trying to provide for them and also provide Christmas for them. So, it’s our way of kind of helping them with a little something for Christmas — make sure they have something good.”

The department believes children are safe and able to thrive in the context of families, JooYeun Chang, executive director of the Children’s Services Agency at MDHHS, said in a news release.

“The holidays are a particularly difficult time for the more than 13,000 Michigan children in foster care who are separated from their families and friends,” Chang said.

For more information on Operaton Good Cheer, contact Child and Family Services of Michigan Inc. at 517-349-6226 or visit www.cfsm.org.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.