In a typical holiday season, Farmington Hills resident Colleen Burke schedules Novi Rotary Club volunteers as holiday bell ringers for the Salvation Army.
For more than one reason, 2020 was not a typical holiday season.
Burke, 32, has been a Red Kettle campaign volunteer for six years. She and her husband connected with the Farmington Hills church by “adopting” families for Christmas. So when she joined the Rotary three years ago, bell ringing and coordinating the club’s participation seemed like a natural fit.
“We do it at the same spot every year, at the Novi Macy’s,” Burke said. “We’ve always found having a group of people to interact makes it a fun thing, and gets people to donate.”
The COVID-19 pandemic complicated the process of signing up volunteers, but people still showed up. As a new mom, Burke wasn’t able to participate in person.
That made her feel a little uneasy when she won the Salvation Army’s “Watch For Good” prize: a smart watch. The random drawing was designed to encourage volunteers to sign up for both in-person and virtual Red Kettle drives last year.
“I didn’t even know about the ‘Watch for Good’ campaign,” Burke said, adding she wasn’t sure she totally deserved to win.
But Lt. Anil Kumar of The Salvation Army Farmington Hills Corps said all volunteers are “like gold” to the organization. The local church and community center at 27500 Shiawassee St. provides social services, a drive-thru pantry, programs for youth, counseling, and many more services.
“Usually, we have 27 employees who will raise funds for us, but due to COVID, we only had 10,” Kumar said. “We had our hearts in our hands, wondering were we going to make it. A lot of volunteers this year have stepped up to give lots of hours.”
The metro Detroit Red Kettle campaign exceeded its $8 million goal, and funds raised in Farmington and Farmington Hills will stay in the community. Kumar extended a “huge thank you” to all volunteers who helped.