The contrast between this Christmas and the one in 1911 is dramatic.
North Texans shopping in short sleeves may be a common sight this year, but 106 years ago Cowtown was caught in subfreezing temperatures. That year also saw a big chill settle on local charities’ budgets. It looked like there would be a lot of hungry and sad kids waking Christmas morning to find Santa must have made a wrong turn.
Fortunately the Fort Worth Advertising Men’s Club picked up an idea from employees of the Chicago Tribune. Fort Worth’s Goodfellows banded together, appointed a Santa Claus Committee and solicited help from a local candy company. In two weeks, they had enough toys, candy and nuts to make Christmas presents for 500 kids.
As the next Christmas approached, Amon G. Carter, the Star-Telegram’s founding publisher, latched onto the Goodfellows vibe and invited employees to take on the charity as the company’s recurring mission. By Thanksgiving 1912, the paper was ready to introduce Goodfellows to Fort Worth. Then-Editor James M. North’s column on Nov. 29 asked readers to share the Christmas spirit with the city’s “lonely little children.”
Cowtown responded, and a tradition of Star-Telegram employees and their friends carrying boxes of food, firewood, treats and toys to neighbors who needed them was born.
The effort has been aided by various groups since then. At its 1936 Christmas party, for instance, the Exchange Club’s membership of executives, attorneys and public servants bid against one another for the decorations, and donated the resulting $66.26 to the Goodfellow Fund.
Over the decades since, the Exchange Club Christmas party became a roast, and its annual donation grew to six figures. This year’s roast, held Wednesday, collected more than $200,000 said Richard Greene, executive director of the Goodfellow Fund.
Nowadays, instead of boxes of goodies, eligible children receive $50 J.C. Penney gift cards that can be used only for clothes and shoes.
In 2017, Goodfellow Fund volunteers hoped for about $800,000 in donations to cover 15,000 kids. According to Greene, about 14,200 children in more than 6,000 families received gift cards by mid-December.
“It could not be done without the help of over 100 volunteers,” he said.
With expected large donations yet to come at www.goodfellowfund.org from faithful sources, the Goodfellow Fund’s total was a little more than $280,000 as of Dec. 12.
“I begin to get sweaty-palm about this time each year,” Greene said.
Historically, Greene said, donations come in larger and faster the closer it gets to Christmas Day.
And, though it’s almost certain to be warmer outside this Christmas, Greene hopes folks want to make kids feel warmer on the inside, too.
Be a jolly Goodfellow
Since 1912, the Star-Telegram’s Goodfellow Fund has provided practical gifts for schoolchildren. Join this tradition by sending a contribution to Goodfellows, Box 1870, Fort Worth, TX 76101. Or go online to goodfellowfund.org and make a secure credit card donation.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.