New Year's Eve 2012 in Traverse City means the 4th annual downtown Traverse City CherryT Ball drop beginning at 9 p.m. at the intersection of Cass and Front streets. This fun event packs Front Street with crowds and live entertainment. New this year, warm up at the CherryT Ball Drop's New Year's Eve Family Event at ECCO (121 E. Front St.—a half-block from the drop) from 5:30 p.m. to 8 pm. Kids and their parents will be treated to beatbox champion Heatbox, DJ Dominate, DJ JR, yo-yo master, LED hula hoopers and free pizza, cherry pie and ice cream. Adults can return to ECCO after the event for a soiree that lasts from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m.

CherryT Drop revelers are asked to bring food or a cash donation for the Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan food pantry. We checked in with Ruth Blick, Goodwill Northern Michigan's marketing and communications director, to find out just how great a gift Traverse City's New Year's celebration is to the nonprofit:

Fill us in on the state of the Goodwill Industries Northern Michigan Food Pantry?

It’s a continual challenge.  We saw a dramatic increase in use over the last year. In 2012 we served 7,000 people. That was up from 4,300 in 2011. The economy is still a challenge—there's a lot of undermployement and people struggling to pay bills. We had our food drive in November. We were down to the bare bones and that helped get it restocked. But it goes quickly. The CherryT Ball Drop has been fantastic. It helps get us through the end of winter.

How many donations did the event bring in last year?

We got about 2300 pounds of food and approximately $9,000 in cash. We figure that every $1 buys a pound of food, and that is equal to one meal.

So one fabulous, fun event in Traverse City treated folks in need to 11,300 meals?


What items are the most helpful to donate?

Soup, tuna, stews, pasta, sauces peanut butter—things with protein. One tablespoon of peanut butter has the same amount of protein as a steak. Babyfood is also welcome and that's something people don’t usually thing of. Also, we are always in need of hygiene items. We're averaging about 85 people a night at the [Goodwill Inn ] shelter on Keystone.

Anything we shouldn't donate?

We try not to have people give perishables. But that said, I don't think there is anything we can't use.  

Where is your food pantry?

On Keystone Drive in Traverse City at the Goodwill Inn. It's open 24/7.

You've had a busy day over at Goodwill today. Besides getting ready for New Year's, what else is happening?

We are opening the donation phase of a planned retail store/donation site in Alpena and a donation site in Acme—it's just around the corner on M-72, by the Women's Health Pavilion.

Are you planning to be at the 2012-13 CherryT Ball Drop?

I've been every year and I wouldn't miss it for the world!

Find local non-profits that deserve your support in our annual Guide to Giving.