What a difference a day makes

Giving Tuesday just around the corner

HANCOCK — The Tuesday after Thanksgiving has become an increasingly beneficial one for local nonprofits.

For the sixth year, Portage Health Foundation is raising money for local charitable organizations through Giving Tuesday. It has raised more than $2 million over that time.

This year, 26 nonprofits are participating, a record number. Five new groups are participating this year: Bootjack Fire & Rescue Foundation, Camp Josh, Copper Country Junior Hockey Association, Ripple Recovery Residence – Great Lakes Recovery Centers Foundation and unit” Mental Health and Wellness.

Each year, PHF opens up applications for a month. They must be registered as a 501c3 with up-to-date paperwork, and their work must fit with PHF’s mission of making the community a healthier place. Local focus is also important; the nonprofits must be located in and do their work in the four-county area.

People can choose to have their donations spread evenly across the nonprofits, or more commonly, to a specific group.

“We call the campaign ‘Putting your money where your heart is,’ and we find most of the donors do exactly that,” said Michael Babcock, marketing and communications director for Portage Health Foundation.

Already this year, people have donated more than $160,000, putting this year on pace with last year’s record high of $443,208.76. All of that money goes to the nonprofits.

PHF will match all donations up to $200,000. It also takes care of all the transaction costs, including about $6,500 in credit card fees last year.

“Whatever anybody donates does go to the nonprofits, and that’s the only place it goes,” Babcock said.

New this year, people can also pitch in by eating at their favorite restaurants. The Portage Health Foundation is partnering with six local restaurants — Copper Range Depot, Gino’s Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge, Michigan House Cafe, Syl’s Cafe, The Squeeze on Main and Skippers Bar and Grill. On Tuesday, those restaurants will donate a portion of their proceeds.

“We hope people will go out and use Giving Tuesday as a day to celebrate – celebrate our local community and some of the nonprofits we have, and also use the day to enjoy our local restaurants as well,” Babcock said.

Several local schools are also doing “penny wars” to raise money.

“We want people at a young age to get into the idea of giving back,” Babcock said.

This is the fourth year Superior Search and Rescue has been part of Giving Tuesday. About 20 to 25 people from Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties are involved in the organization. Deployed when requested by law enforcement, the group assists in finding missing people, disaster relief, emergency preparedness and other areas. They come from a variety of backgrounds, including veterans, first responders and backpackers.

“We don’t receive any taxpayer dollars or anything like that,” said director Darian Reed. “It’s completely funded through grants and donations, which is kind of really where Giving Tuesday comes in handy for us. Then we’re able to get equipment, get training.”

The team generally responds to between 12 to 15 incidents a year. This year, that’s included several fires, as well as a manhunt in February.

Last year, they received about $15,000. That went toward training, such as bringing in a world-renowned tracker. Members also attended training in anticipating the behavior of a lost person, and receiving certification as an instructor to come back and teach it locally.

They also purchased GPS units and other equipment.

This year’s funds will also go towards training, as well as bringing in a tester so local personnel can be certified in SARTECH, a program through the National Association for Search and Rescue.

They also plan to upgrade equipment. Along with more GPS units, Superior Search & Rescue is looking to get new pagers that will work with the state system.

“Our current pagers really work only within Trimountain to Calumet, but we have members across Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties .. we would potentially get a faster response team,” Reed said.

The group also does about 24 training events a year. For the coming year, the organization plans to expand, having more public training events and teaching some programs at local schools.

“We’ve got some pretty big goals for the next year, just trying to get the word out,” Reed said. “Search and rescue is not something you need every day, but when you need it, you need it.”

The biggest overall recipient has been Omega House, which has received more than $380,000 since Giving Tuesday started locally. That money goes directly to help future hospice care residents who want to stay at Omega House, said executive director Mike Lutz.

The eight-bed hospice averages about six residents at any given time. A majority of residents don’t pay the full rate. The people who can afford to pay the least can get 30 days free — longer than the average stay, Lutz said.

“You don’t have to be wealthy to stay at Omega House,” he said. “If you make very little, you pay very little, because the funds that come through Giving Tuesday help offset whatever they can’t pay.”

Before Giving Tuesday, when Omega House would make its budget for the coming year, it would estimate about 30% coming in the last six weeks of the year. Giving Tuesday, in addition to raising the overall amount, has shifted the pattern: about 60% of the donations to Omega House each year come in the last six weeks.

“It’s huge for us,” Lutz said. “Really huge.”

In addition to the five new nonprofits, returning this year are 31 Backpacks, Ahmeek Village Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Baraga County Shelter Home, Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Western UP – UP Kids, Copper Country Angel Mission, Copper Country Habitat for Humanity, Copper Country Senior Meals, Copper Harbor Trails Club, Dan Schmitt Gift of Music, Dial Help, Friends of Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park, Keweenaw Family Resource Center, Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club, Keweenaw Random Acts of Community Kindness, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, Omega House, Ontonagon County Cancer Association, Simple Kindness for Youth, Superior Search & Rescue and Swedetown Trails Club.

Donations can be made online or mailed to Portage Health Foundation; 400 Quincy Street; Hancock, MI 49930. Checks must be written to Portage Health Foundation with the organization that the funds are designated for noted on the check.

For more information about Portage Health Foundation’s #GivingTuesday campaign, go to phfgive.org/givingtuesday.


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