Flint, MI—Gifts arrived for foster kids at Whaley Children’s Center Dec. 23, but in no ordinary manner: they were delivered by garbage trucks.

Flint team members at Republic Services, a waste removal company, organized the event. Republic Services kept the surprise so secret, some staff at Whaley didn’t know until last minute. 

“I just found out moments ago,” President and CEO of Whaley Mindy Williams said Wednesday.  

While the presents weren’t in the garbage trucks themselves, five trucks drove around the building, horns blasting, while the kids watched from inside. 

Republic Services garbage trucks circle the foster home while kids watch from the windows.

Gifts included items like electric cars, cameras, underwear, socks, slippers and basketballs, all wrapped with care. 

Whaley Children’s Center is home to 42 foster children between the ages of 5 and 17. 

“Christmas here, no matter what, we make sure it’s magical…A lot of our kids have never experienced Christmas. So, we do the 12 Days of Christmas. We do cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, and we set up treats for Santa and make reindeer food,” Williams said. 

However, the pandemic has caused unprecedented financial hardships for the center. 

“It’s really hard to explain the amount of pressure that we’ve had this year to make sure that we can continue to be a home. That’s the most important thing we do here is that we give the kids a home and that we become a family. And when you think about Christmas, that’s what Christmas is all about, home and family…So, when we found out this was happening, it was that little bit of magic that we all hope for,” Williams said. 

Republic Services and Whaley Children’s Center staff pose for a photo with the donated gifts.

Each year, Republic Services chooses an organization to support during the holidays. 

“We feel blessed to be able to do this for such a wonderful organization and cause. We’re glad to be in a position to give back to this community,” Republic Services Operations Manager Jim Brazil said. 

Nicole Hollowell, a 20-year Republic Services veteran, said she’s been involved for a long time. 

“I get involved every year when Republic helps a family. I go with them when they go to pass out [presents] to the families,” Hollowell said. 

General Manager at Republic Services Metrel Demp said it was all hands on deck. 

“We shopped as a team. Wrapped everything up as a team. It was a team effort,” she said, adding that she was the best wrapper of the group. 

Williams said the donation lifted a huge burden off their shoulders, though there are some more gifts to purchase. 

“We still have some holes to fill,” she said. 

Near the end of the event, a young girl appeared at a second story window and waved down at the group. 

That moment made it all worth it, the Republic Services crew said. 

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...