With the first of the cold north winds swirling around Storm Lake's children, an old friend with a warm heart arrives home right on schedule.
Mr. Goodfellow launches his annual campaign today, as he has done for nearly 80 years in Storm Lake, ready to provide warm winter coats, hats, boots, snowpants and mittens for needy children who have none.
Last year, the community generously donated more than $9,600 to the Pilot-Tribune Mr. Goodfellow Fund, helping to warm the lives of 170 preschool and elementary-age local children.
Returning this year as chairperson of the Mr. Goodfellow committee is Betty Ohlund, the former longtime director of Gingerbread House.
"I think a program like Mr. Goodfellow is an absolute necessity for a community. There are people out there who are simply, because of their circumstances, unable to clothe their children for Iowa winters," Ohlund said. "In working with children, I've seen what it is like for the kids who have to do without, and I know that there is nothing more upsetting for a parent than simply being unable to clothe your child," she said.
Mr. Goodfellow works as simply as it did when it was founded by Pilot publisher W.C. Jarnagin during the Great Depression years of the 1920s.
Our readers donate - from civic groups sharing significant portions of their treasuries to children dropping off the change from their piggy banks. All of the money goes directly to help the children. Our team of teachers in all of the local elementary schools and the preschool and Head Start programs identify children who do not have the warm winter clothing they need, and if families can't provide for the clothing, they get the parents' permission to help. From there, our team of Goodfellow volunteers take the child into the local stores to pick out a coat or other winter items.
"I love working with Mr. Goodfellow," says Danelle Lovetinsky, one of many who have volunteered. "Just seeing the faces and reactions of the kids makes it worthwhile. Their faces just light up. I know that if I can do this, it will save the parents money on groceries or other bills."
"For some of the children, it may be the first time in their lives they have had something new all of their own," Ohlund added.
The families helped by Goodfellow "tell us that it is wonderful to live in a community that cares enough to allow their children to have warm things," she said.
"One thing that always touches me is that often people who have been helped by Mr. Goodfellow come back in a following here and give to the program in return," Ohlund said. "They were helped during a hard segment of their lives, and they know what it means, so as soon as they are able, they will in turn help someone else."
A single mother of four from Newell tries to explain what the program has done for her family. "Mr, Goodfellow is a wonderful project. It has really helped us out and I've really appreciated all that Mr. Goodfellow has done," she said. "With their help my children can be warm, and I can pay that extra bill or afford that extra Christmas present for the children."
Several Storm Lake stores have been very cooperative to work with the Goodfellow kids, although the loss of the JC Penney store will make it harder to fill all the needs, she said. Other stores like Bomgaars, Rusts Country Shed, Brown's Shoe Fit and Wal-Mart have provided clothing - and sometimes discounts.
"I think Mr. Goodfellow is a good gesture toward the people who are a little bit needy in the Storm Lake area. It seems like it has serves the community well," said Denis Gorde of Bomgaars, which has long helped to support the program.
Julius Cleaners has helped out for several years by accepting good used children's coats to be cleaned and/or repaired for use by others. Other businesses, like Citizens First National Bank, and some of the local churches, have offered mitten trees or special collections.
All area groups and businesses are welcome to join the Mr. Goodfellow team with a new idea for fundraising.
Donations can be sent to:
In care of the Pilot-Tribune,
P.O. Box 1187,
Storm Lake, 50588
Or drop off at the Pilot office, 111 W/ 7th St., Storm Lake