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Couple’s events raise money for families in need

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By Renee Sloan, Page Designer/Staff Writer

Eleven years ago, Michelle Griffin and her husband, Charles Griffin, threw a Christmas party for their friends in their home on Ocean Isle Beach. But it wasn’t just any holiday party—each guest was to bring an unwrapped toy to be donated to needy children.

Since then, the party has grown and now attracts much of the Ocean Isle Beach community. To accommodate the large crowd, the party has now moved from the Griffin’s home to Sharky’s, a restaurant at Ocean Isle Beach.

“The party is a community event,” Michelle Griffin said. “The Ocean Isle Beach commissioners attend, and a lot of the women contribute food.”

She got the idea for her party when she lived in Atlanta and attended a Christmas party there.

“I had gone to a party where they did the same thing,” Michelle Griffin said. “I thought it was a great idea.”

She was also driven by the thought of a child waking up and not having Christmas. “I just can’t imagine that,” she said.

It was her friend, Victoria, who owns Victoria’s Restaurant, who put her in contact with the Brunswick County Health Department, which receives the unwrapped toys.

“The health department really depends on the toys,” she said. “They have already called to see if we’ll be doing it again next year.”

This year’s party was on Saturday, Dec. 6 and collected more than 300 toys. The toys were delivered to the health department Monday, Dec. 8.

“The people at the health department said they have between 40 and 50 families they will be helping with the toys we collected,” Michelle said.

Five years ago, Michelle and Charles Griffin decided to do more for the community by organizing Ocean Isle Beach’s holiday flotilla. The flotilla is more than a community event—it is also a fundraiser, this year benefiting Brunswick Family Assistance.

Charles Griffin got together with a few of his friends and decided to organize the flotilla in 2004. The first flotilla featured five boats.

The flotilla has now expanded to 20 entries and attracted boats from as far away as Raleigh.

“Twenty boats entered, but because of the bad weather only 15 were in the parade,” Michelle Griffin said. “Some boats’ lights shorted out when they tried to plug them in, so they couldn’t be in the parade.”

Andy Russ and Elizabeth Thomas helped the Griffins organize this year’s flotilla, which raised more than $8,630 for Brunswick Family Assistance.

“And we’ve still got money coming in,” Michelle said.

She said money raised came from boat entry fees, sponsorships from local businesses, a raffle and T-shirt sales. This year’s raffle featured a pair of Jimmy Buffet tickets, a pair of tickets to a Panthers game, and a year of free gymnastics from the Sports Zone in Little River, S.C. Organizers also sold T-shirts promoting the flotilla.

Michelle Griffin said she and Charles have already started thinking about next year.

“We have already decided to have Brunswick Family Assistance for our charity for the flotilla,” she said.

They hope to raise at least $10,000 next year.