Michigan’s Helping Hand Series: Dearborn Goodfellows

Michigan’s Helping Hand Series: Dearborn Goodfellows
Logo courtesy Dearborn Goodfellows
Logo courtesy Dearborn Goodfellows

With a giving heart in mind, I was on my way into work the other morning before the sun was awake; at the corner of my street stood a man with a white beard wearing a Santa hat. He looked cold but happy. Somehow I never miss this day. It was the weekend that the Dearborn Goodfellows were out selling their newspapers. I don’t know for sure, but he looked like the president of the organization, Larry Johnson, who has a fitting resemblance to Santa Claus. I didn’t ask his name because a few years ago when I asked the name of the volunteer, she smiled and answered, “I’m Santa’s helper.” I knew not to jest about how cold he must be since the last time I did, it was met with “My heart is warm, and that’s all that matters.” Although they help needy children in Dearborn throughout the year (a major event each Fall being the “Smoke on the Grill” picnic), their primary mission is “no Dearborn child without a Christmas.”

It started during The Great Depression when everyone had a whole lot of nothing. Originally called “The Good Cheer Club,” volunteers have been coming together since 1922 to keep the spirit of Christmas alive. They start early each year on a Friday morning and are out again on Saturday. They use the money they collect to purchase clothes, stuffed animals, board games, and other toys for children ages 2-11. Kids preferences have definitely changed through out the years. I heard on Klove this afternoon that they found an article comparing Christmas wish lists of children in 1913 vs 2013. In 1913 the kids wanted candy, oranges, and mittens. Practical treats that weren’t easy to come by (oranges were a delicacy!). Nowadays it’s Legos, video games, and bikes. Somehow I don’t think they’d argue about getting candy. We just need to remember that there are children out there, in our own neighborhoods, who hear about the wonders of Santa, but seem to be passed over on Christmas Eve to find nothing waiting for them under their tree. Some families can’t afford a tree at all. That scenario doesn’t have to happen with caring people getting involved.

Photo Courtesy Dearborn Goodfellows
Photo Courtesy Dearborn Goodfellows

Although those two days have already passed, it’s not too late to help. At the very least, you can check out their website to sign up for next year. Otherwise, there might still be spots available to put the gift baskets together, as well as openings to deliver them to families in need. Each basket will include the 2013 Dearbear.

The Goodfellows’ website showcases not only their volunteer needs, but also a variety of links to assist struggling families. As the traffic light turned green, I handed him my donation, took my newspaper, and looked him deep in the eyes as I smiled and thanked him. Tonight I’ll be cozying up by the fireplace: I’ll read the charity’s updates, see the sponsors, and answer all of the puzzles on the last page, knowing that I helped to bring back some of the sparkle on Christmas morning as a child unwraps her new stuff.

Catch up with the Goodfellows on Facebook.

Who are you giving back to this holiday season? Is there an important charitable organization that is close to your heart?

Rebecca Battles, Contributing Writer

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I like to think that I’m just a simple northern Michigan twentysomething who loves good craft brews, great wine, summertime grillouts, and well-roasted coffee. I'm also a dedicated yoga practitioner, social media and marketing enthusiast, reader and writer, local food junkie, and outdoors explorer--and I'm always adding to the list. If you want to know something about what's going on in Traverse City, chances are I know about it and it's even more likely that I'm involved in it. I love this town and I love helping to make it shine.