By Sterling McGinn
With the Christmas season nearing, the Newberry Goodfellows are gearing up for another year of giving to those in need in the community.
Carrying on an over 90-year tradition, the Goodfellows help children, families, and seniors in the community whether or not they receive assistance from DHS.
“We won’t turn anybody away,” said Goodfellows President Mary Aho.
Anyone who is not part of the DHS list can pick up an application for Goodfellows at the LINK.
The group strives to make the holidays brighter and give that Christmas magic to many local families and seniors.
Goodfellows annually receives a list from DHS in order to provide gifts and food vouchers for the families and seniors on the list. The gift certificates for food can be used at Rahilly’s IGA or Mac’s SuperValu.
“The amount depends on how many are in the family’s household,” explained Aho.
Making sure kids have gifts for Christmas, toys are donated from both individuals and local businesses. The Tahquamenon Area Senior Citizens gives a donation for the cost of food.
Goodfellows and volunteers get together each year at the LINK to wrap the presents. This year, the volunteers will wrap gifts at the LINK on Saturday, December 10 from 9 a.m. to noon. Snacks will be provided.
Distribution Day will take place at the LINK on Saturday, December 17 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
According to Aho, the distribution will be a drive- through event similar to the Feeding America distribution.
“Once we distribute, we will still have hours available from December 19th to the 23rd to hit anyone who can’t come on the 17th,” she said. Those who don’t make the December 17 distribution, can come to the LINK from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. December 19-23.
Started during the beginning of the Great Depression, a group of Newberry men formed the Goodfellows Club in the Community Building in 1930.
Knowing some children would have a hard Christmas, Newberry businessmen and professionals Joseph P. Rahilly, Andrew Westin, Sanborn Sleeper, Alexander Sayles, Herman Kunert, and Clarence Bystrom organized the club and solicited monetary donations within the community. A committee surveyed the village and county and found a number of children who would not receive a present on Christmas morning.
At that time, the Newberry News stated that the group’s organization was one of the most worthy movements ever in Newberry and should have the support from everybody whose finances permit.
The young organization had no membership stipulations and no secret initiations—just tossing some money in a hat got you a membership. Membership was open to men and women.
Year after year, the group continued its service to Newberry.
Still carrying on the same mission – make Christmas happy for children – the group now consists mostly of women and Goodfellows are always looking for more members and volunteers.
During the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization was struggling for active membership, having just five or six. Since 2020, Goodfellows has grown to approximately 15 active members along with a good core of volunteers. “We have a good crew, but we won’t turn anyone away,” Aho said.
Most of its work takes place nearer the holiday season.
Last year, 95 families were helped by the Newberry Goodfellows, with a total of 228 people within those 95 households. A total of 220 senior citizens were also recipients of gift certificates from the group.
“We are expecting the same amount—maybe a few more with the current economy,” Aho said.
Anyone who has any questions, or is interested in joining or volunteering, can call Mary Aho at (906) 293-3833.