Help us to help kids
Except, perhaps, for those who have no warm coat to wear, no mittens or boots to come between them and winter.
For them, the season becomes a time to stand indoors and watch the others laugh and play their way through recess, through a half-frosted window.
"In our community, we just don't think that's acceptable," said Dana Larsen, editor of the Pilot-Tribune and longtime chairperson of the Mr. Goodfellow campaign in Storm Lake.
"There is no more basic way to give back to your community than to help keep a needy child warm."
In 2006, Mr. Goodfellow served 103 children who otherwise could not have had the warm winter clothing they needed. Pilot-Tribune readers generously donated over $11,000 to the cause.
Mr. Goodfellow was created in the 1920s by Pilot-Tribune publisher W.C. Jarnagin in response to the Great Depression.
The program and its name was widely copied by newspapers across the country for their own philanthropic efforts.
Some 80 years later, and thousands of children over four generations served, Mr. Goodfellow is stronger than ever.
The program opens its fundraising season on Monday, with every penny of the donations going to purchase warm winter coats, boots, hats and mittens for needy children in Buena Vista County elementary and preschool programs.
Mr. Goodfellow's volunteer director, Betty Ohlund, retired longtime manager of the Gingerbread House, returns to lead the campaign for 2007.
She expects the need to be considerable this season.
"For whatever reason, last year the number of children in need was lower than usual. In an average year, we have at least 150-160 children who really need Goodfellow's help, and a short time to raise the funds," she said.
The recent high was over 185 children in 2005.
"I think that last year's mild winter may have had something to do with our lower numbers, and it seems that the number of newcomer children moving in as immigrants from warmer climates may have been down a bit," she said.
"Also, coats are usually good for two years before they get outgrown, so we expect out need to go up somewhat this year, and if we have a hard winter, it could really be very evident very soon how many families we have who cannot buy what is needed without some help."
No matter what the economic conditions, Mr. Goodfellow has always managed to meet the need, Editor Larsen said.
"Our readers are amazing - even before we start the campaign, they are often asking about giving. We have people who have given so generously for years and years, and new people and groups every year who come forward. They don't get anything out of it except the good feeling of knowing they have kept a child warm," he said.
Goodfellow works like this.
Our team of teachers in each local school and preschool identify children who do not have the proper winter wear, and determine if families need help. With the parent's approval, a Goodfellow volunteer takes the child to local stores to pick out new winter wear, or purchases the clothing for the child.
Often, local groups donate boxes of handmade caps, scarves or mittens that Mr. Goodfellow distributes to children in need through the schools, day care centers and Upper Des Moines Opportunity office.
Good used winter coats can be donated as well. Julius Cleaning has for several years donated cleaning for these coats, to be used by children who may need help at any time during the winter season.
Some of today's donators were once children helped by Mr. Goodfellow during troubling times for their families. Others choose to make a donation as a memorial, which is gratefully accepted.
Several businesses have helped out over the years as well, with their own fundraiser efforts and mitten trees.
"We encourage people to get involved with us. Mr. Goodfellow is a great cause for a service group, church group, classroom, club or family to work on. We welcome any ideas, or perhaps a creative challenge to our staff to help raise some funds," Larsen said. He can be contacted at the Pilot-Tribune at 732-3130, ext. 13.
Ohlund notes that as soon as the chill is in the air, she gets excited about a new season for Mr. Goodfellow.
"October is already been doing its job. We've been fortunate to have some pretty easy winters recently, but perhaps this will be the year we get hit," she said.
"The weather plays a key role in the demand for Mr. Goodfellow, and it's at that point where we need to be able to start responding. We encourage people to get their donations in as early as they can, and we really appreciate everyone who has supported this effort through the years - and still continue to support it today."
Ohlund first got involved in Goodfellow years ago when she was working with day care youngsters.
"The Goodfellow memory that stands out the most vividly to me was one of the first times I took a child out to the store and told them Mr. Goodfellow thought she should have a new coat and things," she said.
"This little girl put the clothes on like she could hardly believe it. She looked in the mirror and slowly smiled at herself, then she did a little spin in front of that mirror with the most wonderful smile spread across her face," Ohlund remembered.
"I got a big lump in my throat that day. I knew that very likely this is the first time that child had ever had a whole new outfit all her own."
To help Mr. Goodfellow, send a donation to:
In care of the Pilot-Tribune
P.O. Box 1187,
Storm Lake, 50588,
Or drop off your donation at:
527 Cayuga Street, Storm Lake