FORT WORTH -- It may have been more than 70 years ago, but the memories come back quickly for Bob Gray.Standing in front of a vacant lot in Polytechnic Heights last week, Gray, 79, vividly recalled the day that Goodfellows came.Gray also remembered the friendly next-door neighbor, the giant walnut tree in the other neighbor's yard and a brutal murder at a house on the corner that is also now a vacant lot."We were poor," Gray said. "We had nothing to eat -- no shoes on our feet. Very few clothes. We were in this little itty bitty house -- Mama, seven kids and my grandmother and grandfather."Then one day a few weeks before Christmas -- it was either 1941 or 1942 -- a taxi pulled up and out popped the driver with bags of food."He started unloading sacks of groceries up on the porch," Gray said. "Probably eight or 10 sacks of groceries. More groceries than I had ever seen in my life. And then he left, and we were told what it was."That was the first time I had ever heard of the Goodfellow Fund."There were no toys that Christmas, but Gray didn't care. With World War II under way and everyone suffering hardships, Gray wasn't about to complain."It was a blessing," said Gray, who had to wipe away tears as he recalled that day."We had food for Christmas."His mother, who worked at Montgomery Ward and was divorced from his father, told the children to keep quiet about the food. Gray still isn't sure if she was embarrassed by the help or if that was simply a reflection of an era when people didn't talk about their hardships.But his grandmother told him it showed the kindness of strangers."I remember my grandmother telling me that there were good people in this world that did help people," he said. "That will leave an impression on you."In 1943, the family moved across town to Liberator Village in White Settlement. It was government housing for Consolidated Aircraft, and for Gray, the new home presented an opportunity."It opened up a whole new world to me, and I stepped right through it," he said.He wouldn't graduate from high school but would get a job at General Dynamics in 1953 and later worked for Vought Aircraft in Grand Prairie. He retired in 1996."I was lucky," Gray said. "I got a good job and had a good life."He still drives through the old neighborhood periodically to see how it's holding up. He shakes his head at an abandoned car parked on the vacant lot where his home once stood and trash in front of another vacant lot down the street.The help he got from Goodfellows was at the forefront of his mind during the most recent visit.This season is Goodfellows' 100th anniversary, and the fund plans to give $50 gift cards to 20,000 children.The goal is to raise at least $1 million.As in the 1940s, the fund still focuses on providing basic necessities for children.Today, children can redeem the gift cards for clothing and shoes at JC Penney.Gray said he is an example that such gifts are not forgotten."One day when I pass, it will be included in my estate," Gray said. "I've always kept up with it, donated myself and seen who has given to it over the years."It makes a difference."
We'd like to hear from readers who remember what Goodfellows meant to them as children. Please send an e-mail to email@example.com. Include a phone number if you would be willing to talk with a reporter.
As the holiday season approaches, the Star-Telegram once again embarks on its annual drive to raise money from its readers to provide practical gifts for needy Tarrant County children. Please send your contribution to Goodfellows, Box 1870, Fort Worth, TX 76101. Or go online to goodfellowfund.com and make a secure credit-card donation. We'll acknowledge your gift unless anonymity is requested.