Grand Traverse County Organizations Help Community Through Holidays

The holidays are a time for family, friends, gift-giving, and celebrating.

But for some, it’s not that easy.

Michael’s Place in Traverse City says this can be a very tough time of year for people who have lost loved ones.

And many seniors in the community find themselves turning to the Senior Center for company.

Fox 32’s Caroline Powers and photojournalist Jeremy Erickson found out how the groups are helping others experience the job of the holidays.

“We are very fortunate to have this type of thing here in the community.”

As many prepare for a weekend full of holiday events some aren’t so fortunate.

“Christmas kind of extends beyond just Christmas Day. It becomes a season,” says Lori Wells, manager of the Grand Traverse County Senior Center Network. “So for a few weeks around this time of year people who are alone, or don’t have family that live nearby, it can be kind of a lonely time.”

That’s where the Senior Center comes in.

“We’re able to give them a place to gather, exchange gifts, to talk to Santa Claus, and share memories about past Christmases,” Wells says.

The family atmosphere at the Senior Center Christmas party is why Mimi Lycka-Murphy has come back year after year.

“Hear that behind me? I enjoy that,” Lycka-Murphy says. “I enjoy the music, I enjoy the laughter, the joking, and it’s just being together with people.”

Because for some of these people, this is their family.

“Many of us are alone so much so when we can get out and talk to our neighbors or friends it means a lot,” says Betty Heid.

“It’s a downer if you’re alone. So this just brings everybody together,” Linda Forwerck says.

And while this group is lucky to have each other, others are still left trying to fill the holes left by loved ones who have passed.

Michael’s Place helps people with grief and mourning during the holidays.

“It makes it easier to get through with support from other people who understand the impact and intensity of grief,” says Melissa Fournier, program director at Michael’s Place. “There’s places that help, and things we can do to connect with one another than that’s really part of the whole spirit of the holidays.”