DURAND — Motivated by a generous community, combined with local children who need help around the holidays, the Durand Eagles have run the Old Newsboys of Shiawassee County for 25 years, including the annual drive coming up next month.
More than 22 volunteers will hit street corners in Durand, Byron, Perry, Vernon and Perry township from 8:30 a.m. to dusk Dec. 13, passing out newspapers and collecting money that’s used to fill Christmas gift boxes for kids in Shiawassee County.
The next day, Dec. 14, the Eagles will host a 4:30 p.m. dinner and a 6:30 p.m. live auction at the Aerie, 5240 New Lothrop Road. The event is open to the public, with proceeds going toward the cause.
“We do this because the Eagles are heavily involved in helping the community,” Old Newsboys of Shiawassee Director Laura McGuire said Tuesday. “But everybody who volunteers for me tells me it fills their hearts.”
They share stories about people’s generosity. One year, a school bus driver stopped long enough to hand an Old Newsboy a dollar for a paper and moved on. Volunteers were surprised when a few minutes later the bus circled back again.
The driver explained: After he’d pulled away, the children on the bus asked him why he had given someone money and he told them. The kids wanted to give something, too, he told the volunteers as he handed them a pile of nickels, pennies and dimes.
“I love that story. And then you have people who come back every year and give us a hundred-dollar bill,” McGuire said. “These days, when there’s so much that’s bad in the world, it’s nice to see the good stuff happening.”
The Newsboys of Shiawassee County are assisted by their counterparts in Genesee County, who supply the boxes and use the funds raised to purchase a sweatsuit, socks, gloves, hats, personal hygiene items and an age-appropriate gift for each box.
The Old Newsboys of Genesee County also provide the Durand group with the distinctive aprons and buttons worn by the “newsboys” on the day of the drive.
Last year, the Newsboys of Shiawasee County raised $11,656, providing gift boxes to 272 local children.
McGuire, in her second year as director, said: “Now my goal is to keep building the amount we raise. We have a lot of need in this community and a lot of people don’t know it.”
The children are referred through applications filled out at the Eagles Aerie and through Capital Area Community Services in Owosso.
The boxes are picked up in Flint by Old Newsboys of Shiawassee County volunteers and dropped off at CACS, where parents stop by to collect them before the holidays. When needed, the Old Newsboys personally deliver boxes to homes.
McGuire said the dinner and live auction are always lively occasions. This time around, the meal is lasagna, salads and breads. The cost is $8, paid at the event. Among the auction items will be a collection of paintings and prints, ceramics and tools.
“This place is usually packed,” she said. “We have lots of fun, and it’s a tradition to get into bidding wars. One year, a man bought a package of jerky for $60. He came here determined to spend $60 at the auction.”
This year’s newspaper includes a tribute to the late Bob Bacon, who volunteered to organize the collection drive and gift distribution in 1994, the year the Old Newsboys of Shiawassee County was created. He passed away last year.
Another director, Jack Love, retired and moved to Lansing. McGuire took over the job last year.
“It fills a need in me,” she said. “It makes me feel like I’m doing something for the community. It’s very heart-warming, and it’s a lot of fun working with the volunteers. It’s a crazy crew.”