First in a series about families in need in Clarkston and how groups and individuals come to their aid
BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Yes, people in Clarkston need help.
According to the U.S. Census’ 2013-2017 American Community Survey Five-Year Estimate, the percentage of individuals below the poverty level as determined by the Department of Health and Human Services is 3.2 for the City of Village of Clarkston; 5.9, Independence Township; and 6.5, Springfield Township. Stepping to help are several local community organizations, non-profit groups, churches, business foundations, government agencies, and schools.
“Clarkston Community Schools is starting up a community collaboration,” said Clarkston Area Rotary Club member Joel DeLong. “They’re doing an outreach to all the churches and non-profit organizations in the area to get a synergy going, to basically say, ‘What do you do best? What do you like to do? What can we do better collectively?’ Then we leverage that to say that if any project gets too big for any one organization, how do we pull everybody in together for one common cause?”
A major community project for the Rotary Club is its Goodfellow newspaper fundraiser, started in 1940, and Shoes for Kids, providing footware and other clothing to local kids in need.
“When that first started (40 years ago), it was small,” DeLong said. “They used to take the kids down to Kinney Shoes, which is down where the Arizona Saddlery is now, and fit the kids there. They used to just fit the kids for shoes, but now, it’s evolved to where we add boots, hats, and gloves. I’ve been the chairperson for that the last 23-24 years. We typically have anywhere between 350-420 kids. We’ve have had as many as 651.”
Lighthouse of Oakland County and teachers and social workers in Clarkston Community School provide forms to families of kids who need a little extra attention, he said.
“They are the eyes and ears of what goes on. Our club just facilitates it,” he said.
DeLong added the shoes event “has taken on a life of its own.” Oakland Woods Baptist Church has been the host facility for the last 15 years.
“During that time, they have been great about it,” said DeLong. “We have the Clarkston Area Optimists Club providing opti socks, the Clarkston Area Lions Club gave 150 free eye exams this past year. Those are the kinds of things that come out of it. We also have a Santa that has been doing that for eight years, and Mark Kelly takes photos for the families. This is all driven by need in the community.”
More than 100 volunteers come out to sell the Goodfellow newspapers and DeLong noted Boy Scout Troop 199 from St. Daniel’s Catholic Church, which has worked with the Rotary Club for nearly 20 years, gets 10 percent of the annual collections.
“They’ve been an integral part of this, too,” said DeLong. “We also have Girl Scout Daisy Troop 77151 involved this year. We also have five locations at Neiman’s, Clarkston United Methodist Church, Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church, Clarkston High School, and the library, where we have people. That’s 100 volunteers right there. For ‘Shoes for Kids,’ we get 200 volunteers over two days. This is all well received by the community, and I would think are probably two of the biggest community service projects done in Clarkston with that many volunteers.
“I had 25 percent of those 200 volunteers sign up within the first 72 hours. These people are looking to help, they want to help, and in 22-23 years, we’ve provided for about 9,500 kids, and the community has donated about $325,000. No one necessarily wants to talk about money, but I think for the community, they need to know where the money goes – 100 percent of it goes to these kids.”