1.) This is the busy season for the Allen County Christmas Bureau. How long has the bureau been working to provide for area families and how long have you been involved?
The Christmas Bureau was founded in 1936 by Margaret Ann Keegan, the same lady who founded the art museum. It continued until the end of the 1991 season and it was to be no more. Several community members decided it had to go on and they began to work on reforming it in 1992. That is when I was contacted. We never missed a season. I have been involved since the reforming, serving as president in all but six of these 27 years.
2.) How are families selected? How many will you serve this year?
We select our families from case managers at many social service agencies in Allen County. This year we are serving 359 families.
3.) The economy is much improved from the Great Recession and data suggest we are at full employment – are you serving fewer families than past years? Conversely, is it tougher to find willing sponsors if people believe there are fewer who need help?
Our numbers vary from year to year but never in a great amount. Last year we served 355 families, hence, we have increased by four.
Since the Christmas Bureau is a one-time-a-year operation, we never have trouble finding sponsors. We also do collections of nonperishable food, personal hygiene, paper and cleaning products, etc. This collection is done the week before the adopted family gifts are delivered (from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. next Tuesday through Friday this year) to add to some of the families' packages. The leftovers are divided between social service agencies who provide those needs to their clients.
4.) Congratulations on being honored by Gov. Eric Holcomb last month with the Circle of Corydon for your work with the Christmas Bureau and as board president at Shepherd's House. What inspires you to spend so much time on volunteer work?
Thank you. I was taught at a very young age, by my parents, to give back. I was raised at St. Joseph Academy in Adrian, Michigan, during my high school years. Trust me, the sisters taught us the meaning of volunteering. I don't think I could survive if I didn't keep busy. I am not the type of person to sit around doing nothing. There are many needs in this community and I try to help fill some of them.
5.) After working to ensure Fort Wayne families and homeless veterans have what they need, how does the Surbeck family celebrate Christmas?
John (Allen Superior Court Chief Judge John Surbeck) and I will have Christmas in our home with our daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons, plus a friend or two. We will have a traditional Christmas dinner, open gifts and laugh a lot.