By Pete Wurdock
The magic of Christmas appears right when you need it each year, and there was plenty to go around in Newberry on Saturday, December 18. That’s when the Goodfellows of Newberry gave out Christmas food and gifts to local families for this holiday season.
The sole mission of this 100-year-old event is to ensure no child or senior is without a Christmas gift or, if needed, given assistance with food or clothing. The volunteers assist with this occasion by shopping, wrapping the gifts and helping coordinate logistics on the day of the event.
Each recipient completes the necessary paperwork to determine eligibility based on income. Though it is based in Newberry, this program serves families from Seney to Hulbert and everywhere in between. The Goodfellows make sure nobody who meets the requirements is turned away.
In 2020 there were 781 total people served, 245 households, 356 children, 235 adults and 136 families received food and gifts from the Goodfellows. This year, the final tally was not ready at press time.
It’s an expensive venture. Annual costs are estimated at $20,000 every year. The Senior Center contributes $10,000, and other area businesses and individuals contribute as well. Bakes sales and a burger bash added to the income, and Helen Newberry Joy Hospital sold a special nature calendar with all proceeds going to Goodfellows.
Unwrapped gifts are collected at several points around the community: Rahilly’s IGA, Mack’s Super Value Foods, Family Dollar as well as at the Link. WNBY coordinated a special drop off with the folks at Chuck Renze Ford.
The gifts are sorted by age for boys and girls as well as senior citizens. Each recipient is given a bundle of gifts, all individually wrapped and sorted. “We provide ten gifts per age group for both boys and girls, age appropriate,” said President Amy McCreary. “We think we have a pretty good system working for us and it is all because of our volunteers and the generosity of the community.”
Recipients are given a package with multiple gifts inside with a predetermined dollar amount. As the supply allows, the gift packages are augmented with other “stocking stuffer” type items purchased with the monetary donations. At the same time, the Goodfellows also hand out vouchers for food redeemable at Rahilly’s IGA or Mac’s SuperValu.
Any leftover gifts are stored and saved for the following year. Items like clothing and blankets are also available to those who request them.
The Goodfellows are run entirely by volunteers and Christmas is their sole focus. Their Board of Directors consists of 12 people, led by McCreary. Early planning for this holiday event begins in May and they meet once a month until the event occurs.
Newberry resident Susan Jewell was just 17 years old and a junior in high school when she first became part of Goodfellows. Though it was then a requirement for being an Honor’s Society member, she has continued working with Goodfellows ever since – going on 25 years now. Jewell is now in charge of shopping for the girls; something she looks forward to every year.
By now, the entire effort is a well-organized process. The Goodfellows partner with the Luce County LINK all year long as a base for meetings, gift wrapping, and distribution.
As with last year’s event, careful precautions were taken because of the Covid pandemic. Instead of the recipients entering the LINK building as they have in years past, this year there were volunteers, who served as runners, bringing the items directly to the flow of cars as they arrived.
They deliver Christmas cheer, wrapped and ready, and just in time.
The Newberry Goodfellows send heartfelt thanks to all who gave a toy or a cash donation this year. Your generosity will help put a smile on the face of a child or senior adult this Christmas.