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May Dugan spreads joy and gifts during the holidays


Inspired by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, the May Dugan Center year round ensures residents of Cleveland’s near west side get the food, clothing and services they need.  
 
But as the holiday season quickly approaches and the weather turns frigid, May Dugan has for months now prepared to make the season a bit more cheery for its clients who need a little extra help. Whether it’s help putting a holiday meal on the table or making sure there are gifts under the tree, May Dugan is prepared to lend a hand.
 
The season kicks off today with May Dugan's annual turkey distribution. In addition to its monthly food and clothing distribution, today, Wednesday, Nov. 16, May Dugan will also hand out turkeys to 350 families.
 
“It’s out biggest distribution of the year,” says May Dugan deputy director Andy Trares. GIE Media sponsors the distribution, while Platform Beer Co. stores the birds until distribution day.
 
Then on Thursday, Dec. 1, the holiday season really gears up as May Dugan adorns the 35-foot-high tree on the corner of Randall Road and Bridge Avenue – one of the tallest trees in Ohio City – with thousands of lights.
 
More than 400 people are expected to gather around the tree for the seventh annual lighting ceremony and May Dugan open house from 5 to 7 p.m. The joy of the season will be spread by the Urban Community School Choir and Mae Dugan’s Rhythm and Roots Senior Choir, formed out of a partnership with the Music Settlement’s music therapy program..
 
“The seniors here really enjoy performing,” says Trares of the choir. “The songs are important but their attention to the details is also important. They really like to go all-out and they take great pride in it.” For instance, last year the group dressed in all black and wore Santa hats.
 
There will also be kids’ crafts, a raffle and refreshments. “It’s a nice event that culminates in front of the building with the lighting of the tree,” says Trares. “It has become a tradition now.”
 
After the tree lighting Jukebox, 1404 W. 29th St., will host an after-party from 7 to 9 p.m. A portion of the total bar tab will go back to May Dugan. “Grab a little bit of food, a couple of drinks and support May Dugan,” encourages Trares. Both the tree lighting ceremony and after-after party are free and open to the public.
 
May Dugan's annual Adopt-A-Family program helps make the holidays a little brighter for select clients who have made progress in the center’s various programs. Thanks to sponsors who adopt a family and receive demographic information and a list of gift ideas, each selected family gets a few gifts to put under the tree.
 
“It gives a motivating factor to keep going,” says Trares of the program, adding that the requests are usually for practical items. Last year 160 people were served, thanks to 11 different sponsor groups. Trares says May Dugan now adds children’s books with all gifts donated. Interested sponsors can contact Trares to sign up.
 
“Holidays when folks are in need can be really tough,” says Trares, “Parents work around the clock and hear all the talk about Christmas gifts, and the kids see the commercials. I’m glad we’re able to fill that gap at this time of year and make it a little more special.”

This story is one of a Fresh Water series supported in part by the May Dugan Center.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 18 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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