The crisp snap of autumn will soon bring its unmistakeable chill to the air, and every child will be looking forward to the first lazy snowflakes, the first sled ride, and the first snowman. Except, perhaps, those who have no warm winter coat to wear.
The Pilot-Tribune's annual Mr. Goodfellow fund drive begins today, and the need is expected to be especially great this year.
"Children in needy families may not have the coats, boots, snowpants and mittens they need to come between them and the winter weather," says Dana Larsen, chairperson of the Mr. Goodfellow board. "Those kids are left to stand inside during recess and watch while the others play. In our community, we just don't think that is acceptable."
Last year, 175 children were served and over $10,000 was donated by the Pilot's readers. The Mr. Goodfellow campaign was started by former Pilot publisher W.C. Jarnagin during the Depression years of the late 1920s, and became one of the community's most longstanding traditions. It has been widely duplicated around the country. One hundred percent of all donations goes to serve the children.
Betty Ohlund, retired former director of Gingerbread House in Storm Lake, returns as volunteer Director of the Goodfellow fund.
"With the economy being what it is, a lot of people are struggling. We also hear predictions that it could be a harsh winter. This will be a really good year to dig down and help out if you can," she said. "Any time you have an opportunity to reach out and impact the lives of children in such a direct way, it is a great feeling to do so."
Goodfellow works with a team of teachers from each of the elementary schools as well as preschool and day care programs. Staff at the facilities identify children who might not otherwise have the needed warm winter outerwear.
With the permission of parents, a Goodfellow volunteer takes the child into local stores to pick out the items that are needed.
The Pilot has a lot of help in this project.
* The local Bomgaars store provides goods to the children at a discount, to help donated dollars go farther.
* Julius Cleaners accepts donations of gently used coats which are cleaned and repaired at no cost to the program.
* Citizens Community Credit Union has created a large donation center in their office where new and used childrens outerwear can be dropped off, and also conducts a members fund drive to help. Last year, one member took his young daughter Christmas shopping and they collected four outfits for needy youngsters as a lesson in generosity.
* Citizens 1st National Bank will be erecting a donation tree near Thanksgiving for mittens, caps and scarves for Goodfellow children.
"There is plenty of room for other businesses and organizations to get involved. Get an idea. Do a drive. Give us a challenge. Let's make sure the kids are cared for," Larsen said.
Even before the drive kicked off, donations began coming in. Donald Litwiller of Storm Lake was the first official donor, bringing in $200 back in early October.
"Every year we have faithful donors who always come through, and then there are new people - some of them people who once were helped by Mr. Goodfellow when they were children. We love to hear those stories," said Ohlund.
For the volunteers, there is nothing like the look on a child's face when they are able to pick out a new coat, boots and other items. For some, it is the first time they have had a new coat all their own.
"I've been involved with children all my life, and I can say that Mr. Goodfellow is a tremendous thing for this community to do. It has helped so many people," Ohlund says.
To Donate to Mr. Goodfellow:
Bring a donation to the Pilot-Tribune office at 527 Geneseo Street in Storm Lake, or mail to: Mr. Goodfellow, in care of the Pilot-Tribune, P.O. Box 1187, Storm Lake, 50588.