It was December 1916. “The Great War” raged in Europe. On the homefront, winter in Owensboro, Kentucky, was bitterly cold.
A young newspaper reporter buttoned his heavy coat and wrapped a warm scarf around his neck as he hurried back to the Owensboro Inquirer newspaper office after interviewing members of “The Charity Girls,” an organization that had sponsored annual Christmas parties for needy children since 1911. The young ladies who had formed the group were married now, with families of their own, and were disbanding the group.
As he sat at his typewriter, however, the reporter – Lawrence Hager – could not help thinking about the children who would be disappointed, especially during a season that should be one of joy. “No child should be forgotten at Christmas,” he thought, and that’s when the story he was about to write changed forever. Rather than reporting that the parties would end, he decided to continue the tradition himself.
What happened next is a beloved legend:
On Christmas morning, once again bundled up against the icy wind, he made his way to the local theatre where the party was to be held, and found a line of children eagerly waiting for the doors to open. The young man was shocked to see children shivering in the cold, huddled against the brick wall, wearing thin shirts and trousers; some were barefoot.
Once again, the young man’s heart was moved with compassion – and action. Lawrence Hager quickly contacted local merchants, and loads of warm clothing, long underwear, shoes and jackets were swiftly delivered to the theatre.
It was a Christmas never forgotten by those children – or by Lawrence Hager.
The experience so touched him that he wanted to share it with others. Thus was born the Goodfellows Club of Owensboro. Through the pages of his newspaper, Hager invited everyone to share the heartwarming feeling of caring for children who, through no fault of their own, lacked appropriate shoes, clothing or coats for school.
Every person who donated was automatically a member – a “Goodfellow.” From that humble beginning has grown an organization that now reaches more than 2,000 children in our community with gifts valued at more than $100,000 a year.
As the Goodfellows Club of Owensboro celebrates 100 years of meeting the needs of children, friends of the Goodfellows Club want to invite ALL “Goodfellows” to an appreciation reception.
The reception is open from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, at the Owensboro Sportscenter. Everyone is welcome! Those who have benefitted from the Goodfellows Club; those who have supported the Goodfellows Club; and those who want to learn more about the Goodfellows Club are all welcome to stop by to enjoy free refreshments, musical entertainment and a celebration of the wonderful work that has been done in our community since 1916.
“We are extremely grateful to the community for the enduring support of the Goodfellows Club,” said Goodfellows president-elect Tracy McQueen. “Many people and organizations contribute every year, often organizing their own soup days or other fundraising events. It is very gratifying to live in a community with such caring people. This event will be a modest reception, but we are celebrating a momentous occasion. You don’t see too many organizations that have been around for 100 years.”
As the Goodfellows Club celebrates 100 years of giving … 100 years of caring … it is important to note that “100” has always been an essential part of the Goodfellows commitment. Since 1916, 100 percent of donations have gone directly to providing essential clothing and emergency dental care for children in our community. Every single penny!
Children and their families are always treated with respect as support is given quietly and discreetly. The Goodfellows Club works closely with school personnel to identify children in need, ensuring those needs are addressed quickly and fairly. The Christmas party is still a cherished annual tradition as the Sportscenter fills with excited children who enjoy songs and games as Santa delivers toys, fruit and candy. In recent years, the club has also expanded its reach to respond to children left with little following disasters such as home fires, tornadoes and floods.
The need is great – but the hearts of Goodfellows are greater.
Mark your calendar now and plan to attend this special celebration as friends of the Goodfellows Club say “thank you” for 100 years of keeping Lawrence Hager’s promise that “no child should be forgotten.”
The Goodfellows Club is a private non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation. Contributions are deductible to the extent allowed by law.
For more information, contact Goodfellows Club President Kathy Strobel at 270-685-2652 or visit www.goodfellowsclubofowensboro.org
Goodfellows Club Appreciation Reception
4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8
FREE refreshments and music
Everyone is welcome and invited to attend this family-friendly event!
There are many opportunities to support the Goodfellows Club of Owensboro throughout the year, including these special events:
Tennis Tournament – Summer
Soup Days for Kids – October through December
Messenger-Inquirer Roll Call – November through December
“Messiah” performance – December
Memorial gifts – year round
Estate planning – year round
Emergency assistance – year round
This article was published in the September/October issue of Owensboro Parent Magazine.