ALPENA - Just inside the front door of Banner Realty in Alpena is a Christmas tree, decorated with a fraction of the mittens taken in to the team of real estate agents who work there.
The rest are on a much bigger tree in another part of the office, situated in a corner window. This is the first year the Banner team has done its community Christmas mitten campaign, owner Margie Haaxma said. From now until Dec. 17, her office will accept mittens, gloves, hats and scarves for men and women of all ages to be donated to Salvation Army.
"There's a greater need of medium-sized mittens at this time," she said.
News photo by Jordan Travis
Jan Crawford, left, and Jane Fochtman-Smith rearrange mittens and gloves on Banner Realty’s mitten tree. The agency will donate the garments to Salvation Army, and Banner team members will accept donations at their Ripley Boulevard office until Dec. 17.
As of Friday, Haaxma and her team have collected 74 pairs of mittens and gloves at their office on Ripley Boulevard, she said, adding she's hoping more donors bring in hats and scarves.
For now, these colorful garments adorn the trees in Banner. There are a few patches of green that could be covered yet.
"I'd like to have it so you can't see the tree," Haaxma said.
Those who donate get a small gift from Banner, and will be entered into a drawing at the end of the campaign, Haaxma said. Her office will give two winners American flags on stand-alone poles, and give three others a wrapped surprise.
It's not the first year Banner has worked with the Salvation Army, Banner member Jane Fochtman-Smith said. She and co-worker Jan Crawford came up with the idea after Christmas 2011.
"We always decorate the front of the office, and we came up with some really unique (decorative) mittens," Haaxma said. "It triggered the inspiration to go ahead and call Salvation Army and get a mitten tree going."
Fochtman-Smith said she and other team members thought the mitten tree could be the office's unique project to help the charitable organization with its Christmas giving.
"We thought we could tie it in with the (decorative) theme," she said.
The results have been rewarding, Haaxma said. She and her team members are excited to see people bringing in mittens, some they've made themselves. Donors and other visitors often remark on the tree in the front entrance.
"Everybody has a story with mittens," she said. "We love those stories that people tell when they come in."
Haaxma said she now plans to make the mitten campaign an annual one.
"It's so little kids in the area would have warm hands in the winter and fall," she said.
Salvation Army is one of several local charitable organizations to which Banner gives, Crawford said, including the St. Bernard Friendship Room and Sunrise Mission.
"We like to give to the community because the community has been so generous with us," Haaxma said. "This is a way to give back what has been given."
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5688.