The Pilot-Tribune's Mr. Goodfellow is off to a fast start this year, but there are many needy children waiting to be served before he is done.
As of Thanksgiving, the fund drive stood at $4,000, which provides warm winter coats, hats, mittens or snowboots for children who have none. The program is now in its seventh decade at the newspaper.
"There have been some good contributions, especially from many of the civic groups in Storm Lake," said Betty Ohlund, chairperson of the Mr. Goodfellow fund this year. "We've also had plenty of expense, so the need is still there. Because the need is so high, Mr. Goodfellow is never in a position where we can stop working."
A Pilot-Tribune advertising supplement this week raised $1,720 from participating Mr. Goodfellow Team businesses to put the fund over the $4,000 mark.
"In all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I think that maybe a lot of people really intend to give, but it gets put off. I would personally like to urge people who do want to be part of Mr. Goodfellow to make their donation as soon as possible, so that there will be money to serve children as the need arises," Ohlund said. "In the economy that we have, the donations that we have had so far have been very generous and very appreciated."
So far, 61 needy Buena Vista County children have been served this season, as colunteers take them into local stores to pick out warm winter items - for some, the first coat all of their own that they have ever had.
For Ohlund, a longtime Goodfellow volunteer, her first year at the head of the committee has been a learning experience. "I've enjoyed seeing the other side of the program. I've learned that there are an awful lot of kind volunteerism in this community - both among people who are willing to take the children out to get what they need, and among those who graciously donate their money just because they know it will go straight to help someone in need."
While the fall weather has been unusually mild, Ohlund worries that with the first hit of serious cold and snow, a major need will become apparent as children arrive at school without the coats and other items they need. Teachers in each school and preschool program work directly with Mr. Goodfellow to identify those in need. With parental permission, the children are then matched with a volunteer to take them shopping.
"I've never met anyone yet who has volunteered with a Mr. Goodfellow child and not come away with a great feeling. It gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling to so something for a child in need," Ohlund said.
A flood of gratitude from parents of Goodfellow children is already being felt.
"I would like very much to thank you and your sponsors for such a thoughtful, considerate program as Mr. Goodfellow," one mother from Lakeside wrote. "It is nice to know that people do care and understand, that sometimes parents need a little assistance. I appreciate your helping hand in keeping my children warm and snug for this cold winter.
God Bless You!"