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 come together with us, stronger than ever, to bring some Candlenights joy to folks who really need it.
As many of you know, the McElroys hail from Huntington, West Virginia. West Virginia has struggled with poverty for many years and Huntington is no exception: a significantly depressed regional economy and raging opioid crisis continue to impact Huntington itself and many of the surrounding communities. While the McElroys help us to all feel warm and jolly around Candlenights, there are hundreds of people in their community struggling to find much to be jolly about and, in some cases, even to stay warm. This is NOT COOL.
Back in 2014, the Brothers decided to do something about it. 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.
MBMBaM listeners stepped up to become Angels and demolished the list in literally one afternoon. Every year, we’ve come back together to make another miracle happen for Huntington and every year is bigger and better than the one before. Last year, you seriously cool babies bought 23 beds for kids sleeping on the floor, built a wheelchair ramp for someone to access their home, clothed families, got people to work with bus passes, and lit Huntington up with your kindness and generosity.
In Collabor-eighteen, we’re here to prove we’re stronger together and MBMBaM Angels are stronger than ever. Here’s what to do:
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. Sr. Mark and Mike are back to collect your funds and do great things with them – feel free to check out our answers to frequently asked questions below to learn more about the donation process!
And with that, all we have left to do is thank you from the bottoms of our hearts. This is a community of 30,000 Under 30,000 Charitable Luminaries and we are so proud of every one of you.
Your Head Angels
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.
We take donations through PayPal! Use the email address email@example.com.
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 keeps 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 Rebecca Welker (aka Sister Mark - it's a nun thing) 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 Sister Mark’s bank statements for this account during the Empty Stockings drive.
The spreadsheets Mike and Sr. Mark keep list the donor’s name, the amount donated in US dollars, and any messages that you included with the donation.
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.
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!
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!
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.