Letters Tell us How Much our Kids Need

by | Dec 14, 2014 | Comment, Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

In nearly 30 years of doing this column, I have never printed letters. It used to be a technique some columnists employed. You posted letters from readers and then wrote answers to them. I always felt obligated to be more original.

But I am breaking that trend today. For several reasons. One is that I look around at our country and see such venom being spewed, I feel like ducking into a hole. Between Ferguson and the CIA report, you wonder whether we won’t rip ourselves apart.

My second reason? It’s almost Christmas. The tradition of writing letters to Santa is all but gone (you now can text him, Instagram him, Facebook him or go sit on his knee at a mall). But I happened upon an organization that does the next best thing.

It takes letters from children in our area, children who need help. Letters like these:



Dear Santa’s Helper,

It has been a hard year for me and my parents because … We have lost our home two times. … My Mom couldn’t pay the storage bill so we lost everything. My Mom has been in and out of the hospital. We have spent the night in our car, shower in fast food places, lakes and so forth. My Mom has problems with her kidneys, lungs. … We keep moving cause she doesn’t have the wellness to work and I cry when I see her in so much pain.

(signed) Taylor, age 16

Dear Santa’s Helper,

It has been a hard year for me because … Me and my twin brother are living in a shelter with my Mom who is very sick. She takes good care of us but things got messed up so we had to move … (in) with our Auntie but she had bed bugs that kept biting me.

(signed) Ian, age 11


Dear Santa’s Helper,

It’s been a tough year for me because … We can’t go anywhere. We want to go to the movies and bowling but we can’t. My Mommy’s van is gone. My Mommy gets sad because no one will give us a ride. I pray she gets a car soon. We hate the motel.

(signed) Sam, age 8


Dear Santa’s Helper,

It has been a hard year for me because … My father stopped talking to me after my parents got divorced. He said I was dead to him. I’ve changed schools and am having a rough time with the kids and my classes. As a family we have no transportation so getting to school or activities is virtually impossible.

(signed) Aaron, age 16


If you immediately assumed these letters are from Detroiters, you’re wrong. They are all from Macomb County. They come addressed to an organization called the Macomb Charitable Foundation, which was started more than 30 years ago, by a woman named Shelly Penzien, a school secretary at the time. She noticed certain kids coming to school without coats or socks in the winter. She began helping, one child at a time. Now she averages 17 letters a day.



Dear Santa’s Helper,

It has been a hard year for me because … I have no space of my own. … I can’t have friends over. Being homeless is a nightmare.

(signed) Hayden, age 16


Dear Santa’s Helper,

It’s been a hard year for me because … It’s hard to live in a motel. You would think with my Mom working two jobs a day we wouldn’t be in this situation. … For the first time since I was little, I cried in front of my Mom. … None of my friends want to hang out with me because I can’t do the stuff they want to do. … We never did anything wrong. Why did we get this lifestyle? … No one should have to go through this. On the outside I seem cool … when on the inside I’m screaming in tears. I guess we got put in this situation because we are strong enough to handle it.

(signed) Lynn, age 14


The Macomb Charitable Foundation combs many letters like these, selects the kids it can help, and provides funds for the most needed items, things like food, clothing, car repair, educational assistance. Its people rely on donations and volunteer their time.

It’s good work. It’s selfless. And it’s a lot better than all of us screaming at each other over who’s right, who’s left, who’s prejudiced, who’s not.

So, for the first time, I’m using this column for some letters, because they say what I’m wanting to say better than I can.

We all need each other.

The sooner we realize that, the better.

To help, contact macombcharitablefoundation.org.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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