There was a whole lot of ugly going on in the backroom of Bell’s this past Thursday. Gaudy. Over the top. Tacky. Blinky. Jingly. These are just a few of the words that described the sweaters party guests donned on Thursday, December 5th. All the ugly was for a good cause: supporting CIS Kids’ Closet which provides basic need items of clothing, school supplies, and personal care products to help ensure all kids can attend school every day with confidence and dignity, ready to learn.
Guests poured into Bell’s, bringing with them new items from the “wish list” or $15. All these donations will directly support the CIS Kids’ Closet which distributes these items to 20 CIS supported KPS schools. Students and school staff can then connect with the CIS Site Team at their school to request needed items. This year, we welcomed over 140 guests who donated over $3,000 and 65 new items!
As the band, Rock Rx, played, guests chatted and munched on appetizers. Throughout the evening, guests cast their votes for the ugliest sweater.
Here are the top three winners:
A hearty thanks to Janet and Scott Nykaza, the Kalamazoo Rotaract for another successful year of Kalamazoo Bundle Up, to all the businesses that served as Bundle Up locations, and party guests that showed up Thursday—all to benefit our kids.
Keep following us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. We’ll soon be featuring CIS Board Member and Vice President, Financial Center Manager III of Fifth Third Bank Sara Williams. Seven Fifth Third Bank sites served as Bundle Up locations, making it convenient for the community to drop off a needed item or two.
You’ll learn a bundle today as this post is packed with fun information on Bundle Up, a project of Kalamazoo Rotaract Club. You’ll also meet two of the club members working behind the scenes as members of this community service and social club composed of young professionals & students in the Kalamazoo area.
On the heels of Rotaract’s annual wrapping party, Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids caught up with club members Evan Anderson and Liz VandenHeede at Walnut & Park Cafe. Serving as President of Kalamazoo Rotaract Club, Evan Anderson grew up in Kalamazoo and went to the University of Michigan. He returned to his home town four years ago and is a mechanical engineer at Parker Hannifin. Member and former President of Kalamazoo Rotaract Club Liz VandenHeede hails from Niles, Michigan. She graduated from WMU in public relations and works in communications and marketing with Miller-Davis.
The week before, Evan and Liz had gathered with a dozen other Rotaract Club members at Wax Wings Brewing to decorate the donation boxes used for their annual Bundle Up winter clothing drive. One of those festive boxes was nestled just inside the front door of the café where we chatted over hot chocolate and a chai tea latte.
Tell us about Bundle Up. What is the history behind this project? How long has this partnership between the Kalamazoo Rotaract Club and Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo been going on?
Liz: And our club is always looking for ways we can participate in different community service projects. We do a lot of one-time events, such as park cleanups, and we also really wanted to do a signature project, something that we could have all hands on deck, and make a bigger impact in the community. We tossed around lots of ideas and arrived at winter weather gear drive.
We started doing Bundle Up with CIS in 2015. So we’re on our fifth year with this project. And it keeps evolving. Those first few years we were collecting for both adults and kids. As our partnership with CIS was strong, we really felt the need to focus in exclusively with CIS and put our energies towards the kids.
Evan: Bundle Up is a clothing drive for new and like-new winter wear and personal items that help stock CIS Kids’ Closet. We kick it off in October with our wrapping party and it runs throughout November. By the first of November we’ve placed boxes throughout the community at Kalamazoo business locations where people have volunteered to host a box. We list the needed items on the side of the box—and people can drop off the donated items at any of the Bundle Up locations. [Locations listed at end of this post.]
From the start, the community has been really supportive, dropping off these much needed items that our club members will eventually gather up to stock the CIS Kids’ Closet.
The project culminates in the Ugly Sweater Party. This year’s event—open to all—will be held on Thursday, December 5th from 5:30 – 8:00 p.m. at Bell’s. People are asked to bring an item or make a donation of $15.
Liz: The first couple years Rotaract was doing the Bundle up project and CIS was also doing its Ugly Sweater Party. We talked with each other and said, hey, let’s weave these together and make it one project, with the Ugly Sweater Party culminating in the final celebration of our Bundle Up project.
Evan: It’s been a wonderful partnership. Each year, we adjust our list based on our conversation with CIS as to what items kids need most. For instance, this year, cloth headbands have been added to the list.
Liz: It’s been a terrific partnership all around. The Rotary Club of Kalamazoo is our sponsoring club and we have a great partnership with them as well. They have been such supporters of both us and our Bundle Up Project.
How many items do you generally collect during the drive?
Evan: Our fourth annual Bundle Up Kalamazoo drive in 2018 provided kids with nearly 2,000 items of winter wear, such as coats, boots, hats, snow pants, and gloves.
Liz: In addition to last year’s donated items, we also raised nearly $600 to purchase additional needed items for our kids.
Definitely a success! How did the name Bundle Up come about? It’s such a great name.
Evan: It is a great name, isn’t it? Liz has been with the project from the start. She knows that history.
Liz: Yes, we came up with the name when we were meeting at Bell’s. We were brainstorming on what would be a good name for gathering up winter gear. We came up with Bundle Up. We want to keep Kalamazoo warm!
Evan: If you are a student or young professional between 20 to 35 years of age, we encourage you to contact us. You can find out more on our website, our Facebook page, or just show up to one of our meetings. While we publicize meetings on both our website and Facebook page, we typically meet somewhere in the community two times a month, on the second Tuesday and fourth Wednesday of the month.
Okay, now we’d like to know a little more about each of you. What are you currently reading?
Liz:Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I usually boycott reading books about running. I spend so much time running I don’t need to spend time reading about it when I’m not running.
Evan: You should download the audiobook so you can listen to it while you run.
Liz: [Laughing.] I should!
What is your favorite word right now?
Liz: Bundle up!
Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
Evan: I’d have to say my caring adults are my parents. Both have been very supportive throughout my life, education, and career. They have always been about giving back to others and value community involvement.
Liz: Maybe that’s how you ended up becoming involved in Rotaract.
Evan: You’re probably right.
Liz: Mine is my former teacher, Miss [Marilyn] Klimek. She was my journalism teacher at Niles High School. She took me under her wing and opened me up to opportunities I wouldn’t have known or done otherwise. “You should do this. You should try this.” She was always saying that and encouraged me to attend journalism camp and get involved in the school newspaper, where I ended up being editor-in-chief.
Anything else we should know?
Liz: We’re excited that Interact—the high school version of our service club—is in its first year at Loy Norrix High School. The students just had their own wrapping party to support the Bundle Up project. We provided them with boxes and paper and they decorated the boxes and even found their own locations! Deborah Harris is the person from the Rotary Club of Kalamazoo helping to support this initiative by local youth.
Thank you, Evan and Liz, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. And thanks to all Kalamazoo Rotaract Club members for bundling up our kids and keeping them warm this winter.
Are you a young person interested in serving the community, meeting new people, developing lasting friendships, and growing professionally? Consider becoming a member of Kalamazoo Rotaract Club today.
Interested in donating a much needed item (noted above) for kids this winter? Throughout November, drop off your donation at any of these locations:
Bundle Up Locations
Cityscape Event Center (125 S Kalamazoo Mall)
Crossfit Torrent (5033 West Main St., Kalamazoo 49009)
Discover Kalamazoo (240 W Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49007)
Fifth Third Bank (Oshtemo, 6040 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, MI 49008)
Fifth Third Bank (Kalamazoo Downtown,136 East Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49007)
Fifth Third Bank (Burdick and Crosstown, 101 East Crosstown Parkway, Kalamazoo, MI 49001)
Fifth Third Bank (Milwood, 4109 Portage Road, Kalamazoo, MI 49001)
Fifth Third Bank (Crossroads, 6488 S Westnedge Ave, Portage, MI 49002)
Fifth Third Bank (Westwood, 4705 West Main St., Kalamazoo, MI 49006)
Fifth Third Bank (Gull Road 5653 Gull Road, Kalamazoo, MI 49048)
Humphrey Products (5070 East N Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49048)
KPS Administration Office (1220 Howard St, Kalamazoo, MI 49008)
Old National Bank (5003 Century Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49006)
Old National Bank (3201 Portage St., Kalamazoo 49001)
Pet Supplies Plus (5230 S Westnedge Ave, Portage, MI 49002)
Read and Write Kalamazoo (802 S Westnedge Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008)
Regus (251 N Rose St, Suite 200, Kalamazoo, MI 49007)
Sweetwater’s Donut Mill (2138 S Sprinkle Rd, Kalamazoo, MI 49001)
Visiting Angels (120 South Main St, Plainwell, MI 49080)
Walnut & Park Cafe (322 W Walnut St., Kalamazoo, MI 49007)
And remember, you’re invited join Kalamazoo Rotaract and CIS on Thursday, December 5th from 5:30-8:00 p.m. to celebrate this year’s conclusion of Bundle Up Kalamazoo with drinks, food, and an Ugly Sweater Contest.