Christmas comes early for families at Detroit shelter

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Families at the Coalition on Temporary Shelter were surprised by a 53-foot “sleigh” filled with gifts on Thursday.

While families were away during the day, Amazon associates created a winter wonderland and stocked a room with boxes and gifts, including essentials and toys. When the families returned to COTS on Thursday evening, they were surprised by Santa and the holiday gifts.

Amazon donated $15,000 in gifts, which were delivered in their 53-foot-truck — the sleigh, to families at COTS, the Coalition on Temporary Shelter, family-only shelter in Detroit.

Workers at COTS added hundreds of items to their wish list. The company donated $15,000 in gifts, which were delivered in their 53-foot-truck — the sleigh.

“What makes this so unique is we were able to choose toys that we wouldn’t normally be able to afford along with diapers and formula things that we need every day,” said Frankie Piccirilli, chief development officer of COTS. “But more importantly, they’ve created this amazing experience ... the cookie decorating, lights and Santa here, it’s something our kids will never forget.”

COTS, a family-only shelter, has 140 beds. Piccirilli said they run at full capacity every day with about 45 women and between 80-100 children.

While families decorated cookies, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and members of Amazon’s local volunteer staff stopped by.

“We’re always looking to give back to our communities and create unforgettable memories,” said Shawn Westelund, general manager for the Livonia Amazon facility.