Four years ago, the small industrial town of Muskegon, Michigan, was, like many places, devastated by the financial crisis. Now, says resident Ruth Seelye, "On just one block, you'll see three businesses that are closed down."
Ruth and her husband, Roy, have always given back over the holidays, but in 2008, they decided to dedicate much of their lives to helping Muskegon families in need.
It's more gratifying for us to see how many lives we can reach out and touch.
The couple began collecting brand-new blankets, pajamas and slippers for low-income and homeless kids in the area. Ruth says she wanted the kids to not only have a gift they could call their own, but also one that would keep them warm during the cold Michigan winters.
The Seelyes' giving project is called Share a Little Warmth From the Heart, and over the years, it has become a true community effort. So far, about 5,000 items have been donated to kids in the community. Ruth says one of the things that has inspired her about this experience is seeing the people who don't have much, give to others.
Since the Seelye family began their efforts, Ruth says, Share a Little Warmth From the Heart has become their gift to each other. "It's more gratifying for us to see how many lives we can reach out and touch," Ruth says.
This year the project's barrels are out, and collections are happening across the city. Ruth says seeing the community come together and give back to kids who need warmth and love this holiday season has made 2011 "simply a year of miracles."