A few years ago, Detroiter David Odom and his family fell on hard times. His situation was so bad that he could not afford to buy Christmas toys for his two young children. A friend told Odom about the Detroit Goodfellow holiday gift boxes that are distributed to thousands of children in need every holiday season. He went to the 6thprecinct to sign-up for two boxes, no longer having to worry about how he was going to provide his children with a Christmas.
“My kids were flabbergasted by what was in their boxes,” said Odom, who was on the corner of Griswold and Congress selling Goodfellow newspaper. “Where else can you get a box with a sweat suit, socks, hat, gloves, coloring book, a library card, and all kinds of other stuff. My kids were happy.”
Odom was compelled by the blessing the Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund of Detroit provided for his family, that he decided to become a member of the organization to help bless other metro Detroit families. He joined hundreds of other Detroit Goodfellows, Detroit police officers and firefighters, and the Detroit Schools of Arts band Monday morning for the organization’s annual parade around downtown Detroit. The parade stepped off from the Guardian Building and ended at the Penobscot Building, the original corner where Detroit Goodfellows founder James J. Brady sold papers at the first sales day. The Goodfellows sang Christmas carols at the end.
A holiday tradition in Detroit, Goodfellows began selling their special edition Detroit Free Press/Detroit News newspaper to ensure their mission of “No kiddie without a Christmas.” Newspapers are sold for any donation amount, with the money going toward providing holiday gift packages to 30,000 children in need. It is estimated that two out of every three Detroit public school children receive a Detroit Goodfellows holiday gift box.
“When I was a kid, I was never a recipient of the Goodfellow boxes, but I had friends who got them, and I always wanted one,” said Daran L. Carey, vice president of the Detroit Goodfellows. “And for most children who receive one, it’s the only gift that they’ll get for Christmas. The holiday gift boxes mean a lot to the families we serve.”
The Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund was founded in 1914 by Detroiter James Brady, who wanted to improve the welfare of Detroit’s youth by having former newsboys sell newspapers at an inflated cost during the holiday season with the intent of using the extra money to purchase food, clothing and Christmas toys for children. For the last 105 years, the Detroit Goodfellows have raised and spent millions of dollars on hundreds of thousands of children in the Detroit area. Today, many former newspaper men and women, including some of Brady’s descendants, band together during the holiday season to sell papers and ensure that their motto “No Kiddie Without a Christmas” rings true to all.
“We still have a large number of people in this country who live below poverty and they have not been able to find the kind of job that will allow them to support their families for Christmas,” said former Detroit Mayor Dennis W. Archer, who marched in the parade and had been a Goodfellow since 1980. “So for those who can help others our for the holidays, it is our mission to ensure every child has a great Christmas. If you don’t have this on your resume, you’re missing out and I encourage everyone to join.”
COVER PHOTO: Detroit Goodfellow David Odom sold newspapers in front of the Guardian Building to raise money for children in need for Christmas gifts.