In the Dec. 17, 1925, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a young child’s letter requesting a Christmas miracle was printed.
“Dear Goodfellows: Will you please bring us something for Christmas? My mother is a widow – daddy has been gone a year and if you don’t come to see us, we won’t have any Christmas this year. I am 12 and would like to have some underwear and a sweater. I have some little brothers and sisters who would like toys. All of us thank you.”
About a decade earlier, Editor James M. North initiated the Goodfellow Fund, and newsroom staffers put it into motion. That first year, 1912, they raised $1,242.80 – enough to give 350 families a turkey with bread, fruit and canned vegetables, a few toys, and a load of wood or coal.
Every year since, along about Thanksgiving, the Star-Telegram again reminds its readers of the continuing the need in our community and asks for donations to try to ensure that all children have Christmas. This is the 102nd year.
During the Depression, the focus of the fund’s gifts shifted to clothes and shoes for children, as well as small toys and treats, which they requested in letters.
Richard Greene, now Chief Goodfellow, said he has seen 50 years of growth.
“We used to get to shop for the applicants,” said Greene, executive director of the fund. “They would submit clothing needs and we’d borrow grocery baskets to carry new jackets and coats. We’d spread out the items in cattle barns at the Will Rogers complex, sort through them and deliver them to the families.”
Greene said the need grew too large to continue that way, so the fund switched to giving gift cards. Now families pick out their own clothing and shoes.
Last year, Goodfellows gave $50 J.C. Penney gift cards to 19,470 children, Greene said. The goal is the same this year.
The newspaper has always recognized people who give to the fund by printing their names unless anonymity is requested. For many years, the paper regularly sent reporters and photographers to events that raised money for the fund. (We’ll still try do it with a little advance notice!)
In 1925, the newspaper’s pages were full of photos of orchestra musicians and dancers who were preparing for their performances at the Goodfellow Frolic in the Crystal Ballroom of The Texas. Starting in 1936, one day in December, Exchange Club members become Goodfellows. That first year, they gave $66.36; in 1968, an auction raised $8,848; last year, they gave a record $135,000.
The amount of donations has always ranged from schoolchildren’s pennies to checks with several zeroes. Every donation makes an impact, Greene said.
“I got a $5 donation the other day,” he said. “The letter said, ‘This is all we could afford. I hope this helps. Merry Christmas.’
“I just hope we can continue to watch it grow, and the only way we can continue to watch it grow is through the help of new donors. Every $10, $30, $50 helps.
“These families, the majority of these families, wouldn’t have a Christmas if it weren’t for us.”