About MBMBaM Angels
The McElroy brothers are not experts, and their advice should never be followed. But their example is one of the best around and we hope you’ll once again follow their lead and help us spread some sweetness this holiday season.
Whether you’re a new listener or a long-time fan of any of the McElroy Family of Podcast Products, you probably know the brothers originally hail from Huntington, West Virginia. You may also know that West Virginia as a state has struggled with issues of economic depression, high unemployment, and health crises centered around opioid abuse and addiction for years. However, you may not know that as one of the most hospital-dense cities in the state, Huntington has been fighting hard on the front lines of COVID-19 and they’ve had a rougher 2020 than most, which is saying A LOT. There are a lot of folks in the greater Huntington area who don’t have very much to look forward to this Candlenights season
Back in Ye Olde Normal Times, 2014 to be precise, the Brothers decided to try and brighten the holidays for a few members of their community. Each year their local paper, the Herald-Dispatch, publishes a list of individuals in Huntington who are asking for the littlest of somethings to make their holidays a little brighter. They reached out to all of us, their fans, and asked if anybody would be willing to take a look at the list and maybe knock one or two off of it to give back to Home Sweet Huntington. Justin dubbed the project the MBMBaM Angels. You beautiful listeners stepped up, assumed the mantle of Angels, and kicked off a tradition that is going strong six years later of creating a Candlenights miracle in real time. You amazing people have bought beds for kids sleeping on floors and stoves for families who were used to eating out of a microwave, stuffed backpacks full of school supplies for kids and sent crossword puzzle books and socks and candy to the elderly, got people to work with bus passes in their pockets and new boots on their feet, and you have lit up Huntington and our hearts with your unbelievable generosity.
We know that Twenty-Funny was a bit of a bust for us all, and Candlenights looks pretty different this year. But we believe in the indomitable spirit of the season, the restorative power of doing good recklessly, and the love you have in your hearts. So if all you have to give is your love and best wishes, that (and you) are more than enough and we love you for it. And if you have a little hunny left in your pot this late in the year and you want to get down beez-nees to spread some of that sweetness around, here’s what you can to do:
- Choose an empty (or partially filled) stocking from the home page.
- Choose the unclaimed items you would like to claim (all items or only a few) and enter your email. This claims the stocking as yours!
- Call the organization to ensure that request has not been taken, and let them know which stocking you plan to fill (by child's name).
- Use the confirmed address from the spreadsheet to send your stocking items. (Please note that some items, like bus passes, may have special notes attached to the request. Check the item's details to be sure!)
- Once you’ve sent your stocking goodies, be sure to let us know! Use the email field on the home page to look up your profile. From there you can set your items as "complete" and add to any notes (tracking numbers can be useful)
The MBMBaM Head Angels are also collecting monetary donations to help cover big-ticket items like appliances, furniture, and other things that would be difficult for one person to claim alone. We’re all about continuous improvement and we’ve made adjustments based on your feedback on our new (from last year) process; feel free to check out our answers to frequently asked questions below to learn more about the donation process and any other burning questions you have!
And with that, all we have left to do is thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You make the season burn with the warmth and brightness of a million fires spelling out “THIS IS COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!”
Your Head Angels (Carrie, Sr. Mark, Mike, Willem, and Valerie)
Keeping it Simple, Keeping it Real (a FAQ)
MBMBaM Angels is about as grassroots as it gets. Each year, a group of us get together and join in the spirit of Candelnights to connect MBMBaMbinos with those in Huntington who need our help. Most of us donate our time and a little bit of our money to keep things rolling. In the interest of making sure we're as transparent as possible, we've answered a few questions.
How do I donate to MBMBaM Angels?
We take donations through PayPal! Use the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
What happens when I donate?
When you donate, an email gets sent to the head angels to notify us. Two of us are in charge of keeping track of donations; Sister Mark and Carrie Ingeman keep one spreadsheet and Mike French keeps the other. They both add each donation to the spreadsheet and get in touch regularly (every day when there are a lot of donations, every couple days if things are moving more slowly) to make sure that the spreadsheets match exactly.
It is really important to us that donations are tracked by multiple people; this helps us make sure that all donations are accounted for at all times, and that nothing even as simple as a math error gets in the way of using those donations to fill empty stockings.
When your money is received, it goes into an account owned by Carrie Ingeman and used solely for MBMBaM donations. She does not touch those funds except to use them to fill stockings; Mike keeps an independent list of all donations received and receives downloaded copies of Carrie’s bank statements for this account during the Empty Stockings drive.
The spreadsheets Mike, Carrie, and Sr. Mark keep list the donor’s name, the amount donated in US dollars, and any messages that you included with the donation.
What happens to my information?
We collect the messages that you send and forward them to the McElroys! It makes us feel like Santa’s elves.
Your personal information never leaves our care. The information in Mike and Sr. Mark’s spreadsheets stay with them, and email addresses entered on the website stay with Willem. The Head Angels do not sell your information, share it, or publicize it on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. The only time you might get an email from us is if we need to clarify something about an item you have claimed or a donation you have made. Nobody except the Head Angels will know if you donated or what you donated unless you choose to share that information (which you are free to do if you like!)
We do share the total number of people who donated, and we make regular updates on Facebook and Twitter stating the total amount of donations received.
How does my donation get spent?
At some point in December, Mike and Sr. Mark, along with any Head Angels who want to help, pull up the list of items that the donations will cover and start to go shopping. These are usually the most expensive items, like beds, appliances, and home renovations (for example, making a house accessible for a wheelchair user).
When we’re choosing what items to buy, we work to strike a balance between affordability and quality. Although we don’t buy designer items, we will never buy an item we would be unwilling to use ourselves. We do our best to make sure that items are good quality, truly fill the needs of the recipients, and meet the recipient’s taste, if we are able to find out what that is. Getting gifts at the holidays should be fun, and just because many of these gifts are practical dos not mean they are an exception!
What if there are more donations than we need to fill the Empty Stockings?
The fact is, there are many, many more needs than the Herald-Dispatch is able to list. A lot of those needs are the big, substantial things that your donations were meant to cover. So as soon as we know that we have enough donations to cover the items mentioned in the Empty Stockings list, we start calling organizations to find out who else we can help.
Sometimes, this means writing a check to an organization. Last year, a large check went to Mountain State Centers for Independent Living, which had a long list of people who had applied for assistance. The check bought hearing aids for several individuals, some of whom had been waiting for quite a long time.
Our goal is to use every cent of the donations to buy items for people in need. We will send items or fund the purchase of specific items from any organization that we are in contact with. Funds do not go to support the work or overhead of any organization.
We do not make donations to schools or religious institutions.
We do keep in touch with the sponsoring organizations to help as many people as we possibly can!
I don’t support one of these organizations. Can you please take them off the list?
Your Head Angels come into this process when you do: when the list is published in the Herald-Dispatch. We aren’t involved in any way with coordinating with the newspaper or the volunteers in Huntington to identify the individuals and organizations on each year’s list.
We only do what we can to help make the Candlenights wishes of specific individuals, not their sponsoring group, come true. We dedicate our focus and your funds 100% to the person in need - we don’t contribute to any of the organizations’ overhead costs or administrative functions.
We’re all here for the same reason: to leave the world a little better and a lot kinder than we found it by spreading the joy of Candlenights and offering what help we can to ALL in need, regardless of who first identified that need.