Want a warm feeling? Put a coat on a kid....

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

To all of our friends who have donated so far to the Pilot's Mr. Goodfellow Fund - over $2,000 worth in less than three week's time - we thank you. More importantly, some needy kids who have discovered that someone cares, thank you.

If you can't give, we understand. Fuel and heating bills are hurting people. For some, the year has not been kind. So just give us a warm thought, would you? And we will do the same for you. God bless.

It's a third group of folks I'd like to address here. Those who could give, maybe meant to, but haven't gotten around to it.

We all know how it goes. You get busy. You forget the checkbook. Sometimes it seems like everyone has their hands out - and they are all great causes, from AWAYSIS to Salvation Army to Community Chest to the university fund drive, etc. Believe me, I wish I didn't have to ask you too. I wish I could say that there aren't hundreds of children living in below-poverty-level circumstances in Buena Vista County who need us.

Have you ever driven past a school at recess time and wondered about the child - that one that looks shivery and lonely over by the wall - when the rest of the children play in the snow? Maybe he's got only a thin jacket, several sizes too big. Or she's got an old dirty hand-me-down coat with more holes than material. For goodness sake, why doesn't someone DO something about that?

Welcome to the world of someones.

You can go out to your warm car each morning and feel the biting cold for a minute, and ignore the fact that children are walking to school in it without warm boots, hats and mittens. Or, you could help.

You could figure someone else will do it. And they probably will. Take a look at the lists of donors in the paper - a whole lot of them are older folks on fixed incomes who have been with us faithfully for many years. They start coming in about October, not even waiting for us to announce the fund drive. Church groups that do so much good and don't have a lot of extra dollars to throw around. Kids who give up their allowance. People who once were helped by Mr. Goodfellow, and now are able to give back a little. Some, by the way, don't even want their name in the paper.

For some of us, it's become a running thing: "Well, I see you have the same crappy coat on as last year. You're a disgrace," I'll grin to a friend in passing on the street. "And I see you still have the same stain and the same ripped pocket. Could you at least wash that thing? You look awful," he will smile back.

Think of it as the Crappy Coat Club. If you can wear your old coat one more year, maybe you can afford to pick up the cost for a new coat for a poor kid who otherwise won't have one at all.

No matter what the old Saturday Night Live line says, it really is better to feel good than to look good. And I really need to learn how to sew.

There's not much more direct act you can take in this sometimes hard world than to reach out and put a coat on the back of a child in your town who is cold. I would submit that if you have to choose between that and a donation to a political party, it may not be such a hard choice.

Again, I hate to ask. But I've got some big fundraising boots to fill around here. Mr. Goodfellow has been doing this since the Great Depression years of the 1920s and our legendary publisher, the craggy W.C. Jarnagin. A lot of good Pilot people have made it go over the years.

It's going to be a tougher winter for a lot of people, I know, but we can't stop trying to help now.

We are a bit behind pace on the Goodfellow fund, not unexpected with so many good projects fundraising this year. We've also added a new school to the list where we are helping - Newell-Fonda elementary. After a warm start, chilly reality set in quickly this week as temperatures dipped. Our teachers are out there identifying the kids who need help, our volunteers are getting them to the stores for warm winter clothing as fast as they are able, some of the businesses are helping us with discounts or mitten trees. The need is here. All dollars raised go direct to the kids, always.

If you can help us, thank you so much. To all of our volunteers, your warm hearts are ever-appreciated.

And the crazy little secret about Mr. Goodfellow remains this. You might be giving to put a coat on the back of a child, but somehow, in the process, you get back an inexplicable bundle of warmth inside yourself. Strange how that works out, isn't it? Strange, but beautiful.

Thanks again. Happy Thanksgiving, and the merriest of Christmas seasons.