Detroit Goodfellows Delivering Holiday Cheer for More Than 100 Years
December 10, 2020
In 1914, a worker with the Internal Revenue Service in Detroit named James J. Brady happened to get a glance of a cartoon featuring a sad child who had been overlooked at Christmastime. Knowing that families were struggling and the holidays were just around the corner, Brady was motivated to do something to help.
"So this gentleman was very inspired by that cartoon and gathered some of his friends and co-workers, who had actually delivered newspapers when they were kids, old newsboys," explains Sari Klok-Schneider, Executive Director of the Detroit Goodfellows. "They gathered the Monday after Thanksgiving and sold the newspaper that day to raise funds to buy packages for children. They raised a couple thousand dollars on that first sales day and hand-delivered toys to children in the area that were in need." Thus, a tradition was born and every year since, the Old Newsboys sell newspapers in Detroit to raise money to provide Christmas gifts to children in need in Detroit and five other communities: Highland Park, Hamtramck, River Rouge, Harper Woods, and Ecorse.
Today, more than 250 Goodfellows members along with volunteers are assembling Christmas packages for boys and girls ages four to 13. Christmas packages include clothing, a winter hat and gloves, toys, candy, books, and a dental kit, courtesy of Delta Dental. Klok-Schneider says it is the work of the members and volunteers that make the whole thing work. "It's amazing, the dedication of some of my Goodfellow members who have been a part of this for 40, 50, or 60 years even, and their devotion is heartwarming." Klok-Schneider says the Goodfellows are grateful for their community partners including Delta Dental's contributions to the 30,000 packages the organization assembles for its No Kiddie Without a Christmas Program. The Detroit Police Department assists in organizing pick-up of the holiday packages as well.
But 2020 has been a different kind of year for many charitable organizations around the country. "We've been challenged this year from our normal way of fundraising," says Klok-Schneider. Precautions due to COVID-19 cancelled the Old Newsboys Annual Newspaper sale and the organization's main fundraising event, the Annual Tribute Breakfast, forcing the organization to rely on virtual events this year, utilizing social media, to raise funds. "We spent some time over the summer really updating our website and getting our social media lined up so that we could have a better presence out there," she adds.
The pandemic has also increased the number of families applying for holiday gift boxes this year. "I think there are more families that are struggling because of at-home learning; parents that have been forced to quit their jobs because somebody has to stay home with the kids for that," says Klok-Schneider.
The application process for the 2020 No Kiddie Without a Christmas Program is closed for this year. Applications are being accepted for the 2021 program, however, and Klok-Schneider says the Detroit Goodfellows does have a late walk-in program, or waiting list. Each year she says there are families who do not show up to pick up their Christmas package, yet the organization does not want those to go to waste. Information on this procedure is on the organization's website.
Donations to the Detroit Goodfellows are always welcome, as it takes $35 to fill one child's holiday gift box. To find information on donating, volunteering, or on the late walk-in program, go to http://www.detroitgoodfellows.org. If you need assistance over the holidays, you will also find links to the United Way and the Detroit Public Library's TIP Line on the website as well.