MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — For nearly 100 years, Old Newsies and Goodfellows of Muskegon County have provided warm clothes and toys to children whose parents may not be able to afford them during the holiday season.
This year, the organization celebrates its 83rd and final anniversary.
“Unless someone comes up with a great idea, this is the end,” Old Newsies and Goodfellows of Muskegon County President Debbie Mogdis said. “Our board has voted to shut us down.”
For decades, the philanthropic group relied on donations, volunteers and newspaper sales to fund its campaign, which was started by The Muskegon Chronicle.
“Children during the Great Depression era would write to the paper, addressed their letters to Santa Claus and ask him for gifts because their family could not afford them,” Mogdis said. “The paper made a special edition they would sell every December from street corners, which would fund our operation the following year.”
This went on for decades until 2016 when Michigan law forbade street corner sales of any kind.
“The law was reversed the following year, in 2017, we were given the OK to sell again,” Mogdis said. “But it was too late — the damage was done. Since then, our donations have been dwindling and we find that we just can’t do it anymore. There’s not enough money.”
Each year the group donates gifts to nearly 4,500 Muskegon County children. The Newsies and Goodfellows send lists out to public schools, which teachers then fill out how many students they believe will need assistance with Christmas presents.
“It’s done in such a way, under the table, if you will.” Steve Bailey, a longtime volunteer said. “But therein lies the beauty in it. These children and other children may never realize that they were helped by the Goodfellows. They simply are surprised with presents they maybe never thought they would receive.”
The Goodfellows pack the thousands of gift bags and load them on to school buses and fire trucks where they are delivered to parents.
“They can then take the gifts out of the bag and wrap them individually,” Bailey said. “From there they can say they are from Mom and Dad or Santa, what have you.”
Bailey remembers when he received gifts from the group in the early ‘60s. He is sad to see the group fading away.
“Seems to be just the time of change where everybody is just worried about themselves anymore, doing what they need to do. Not reaching out to help others,” Bailey said. “I guess it’s just the time for it to, go away. It’s served the public for so many years. The times are changing.”
Another much younger volunteer, Jaise Lintiaco, remembers a Christmas where she and her family went without. Her mission is to ensure no child wakes up to disappointment on Christmas day.
“I want to prevent any child from having to go through Christmas where they don’t have much or they have to feel bad because their parents don’t have enough money for them,” Lintiaco said. “Christmas is the time for giving. It’s the time for cheer. It’s the time for coming together and making sure that everybody feels like they are meant for something.”
Organizers and volunteers are not sure what will fill the void for the thousands of children and families who benefit from the nonprofit yearly. They hope another group or one great idea can replace it.
“When I heard that this was the last chapter, I cried. Because I thought about it, and that’s a lot of kids who won’t have this next year,” Lintiaco said. “I hope someone else can think of a way to show the world more kindness because there’s not a lot of that around anymore.”