By Stephanie Beach, Local columnist
---- — Christmas angels were out in force this holiday season. Some are known, others remain anonymous.
Michelle Mercer was driving home in the major snowstorm the Thursday before Christmas when she realized that she had left her purse at work.
"They were saying 'stay off the roads' and I wanted to cry since I would not be back there for awhile," Michelle wrote. "Then a car pulled up and there was a Christmas angel, Cindy Hayes, my co-worker who realized the purse was mine and brought it to me. Thank you so much, Cindy."
Child and Family Services would like to extend its deepest thanks to WTCM-FM and the station's listeners for making the holiday wishes of more than 500 of the community's foster children and dozens of families in need come true.
The Paper Angels in the title "The Paper Angels Campaign" refers to the country music song by Jimmy Wayne that recalls the singer's memories of Christmas in foster care. The campaign encouraged the northwestern Michigan community to accept a wish list from each child or family being served by Child and Family Services, Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative, SEEDS, Traverse City High School, Third Level and YouthBuild and fulfill those wishes from their own hearts and pockets.
"The community responded beautifully," said Child and Family Services CEO Jim Scherrer. "More than 200 callers/donors, including many schools, churches and businesses provided more than 2,000 gifts to 541 children and families.
Scherrer went on to acknowledge Jack O'Malley, Colleen Wares, Joel Franck and everyone at WTCM, and all the people in northern Michigan who stepped up to be a part of Paper Angels.
"In this sixth year of the campaign, people were once again incredibly generous, including many who are struggling themselves," Scherrer said. "But they all wanted to give a little back. The many stories we heard were just heartwarming; great reminders of the very special community we are fortunate to live in."
More than 300 northern Michigan children woke up Christmas morning to find a new bike under the Christmas tree, thanks to the efforts of the Bikes for Tikes program.
The program started when a small group of volunteers decided they wanted to leave a lasting impression with needy families at Christmas and has collected and distributed nearly 1,400 bikes in its 10-year history. A record campaign in 2011 collected more than 200 bikes. Organizers set a hefty goal of 300 bikes for 2012 and wrapped up the most successful campaign in its history, collecting 325 bikes. The bikes were distributed through the Northwest Michigan Toys for Tots campaign and sent to five counties in the Traverse City area.
"It was heartwarming to see the wide range of bikes come in," said Bill Marsh Jr., who helped sponsor this year's campaign and whose dealerships were primary drop-off locations. "We heard story after story of truly needy families that were helped with these bikes."
Bikes for Tikes also is sponsored by WLDR, American Waste, Jimmy John's, Graff & Hunt, Leelanau Sands Casino and Big Lots.