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Goodfellows distribute toys, holiday spirit

Published: Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 1:22 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 9:16 p.m. CDT
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Kyle Bursaw — kbursaw@shawmedia.com Ryan Swartzendruber, 21 and his brother Brett, 13 (at right), both volunteering with the DeKalb/Sycamore Goodfellows, bring a handful of gift bags out of Blumen Gardens in Sycamore to deliver to families on Monday.

SYCAMORE – The spirit of giving was alive and well Monday as numerous Goodfellows gave out presents to children in need Christmas Eve morning.

The Goodfellows of DeKalb/Sycamore are an all-volunteer group of local residents who annually raise money to buy clothing for area children. This year, Goodfellows bought  clothing for 915 children from 362 families in the area, said Gerry Keating, the group’s president.

The Goodfellows are active between September and Christmas Eve. They work with J.C. Penney to purchase clothes for children, which are then brought to Blumen Gardens, at 403 Edwards St. in Sycamore, to be wrapped. The Goodfellows contact local school districts and social service agencies to develop a list of children in need in the area.

Stephanie Simons and her 16-year-old daughter Kylie McKee have been delivering presents to families like Juan Jesus Blanco’s for the past 10 years.

“Just to give is a great thing,” Simons said. Traveling with Simons and McKee on Monday were McKee’s boyfriend, his sister, and Simons’ best friend’s son. The group knocked on doors or rang doorbells and wished the families a “Merry Christmas” before giving them gifts.

Blanco, who lives in DeKalb with his parents and younger brother, was one of the kids helped out by the Goodfellows this year. The 8-year-old said he needed clothes because he was getting too big.

He said he was hoping for a new sweatshirt.

Keating said the group raised $30,000, short of the $35,000 target members were hoping to hit. Keating said the group is always in need of funds. The group solicits money through the mail, and through a Christmas office party they host at PJ’s Courthouse Tavern in Sycamore.

“I think it’s the economy. It’s taken its toll on everybody,” Keating said, when asked about the difficulty making the group’s fundraising goal. “Our needs have grown. Every year, there seems to be more and more. ... I think we’ll be OK. Things always seem to work out.”

Brian Scholle described the Goodfellows as being the “only true Christmas spirit organization” in the area because of its sole focus on the holiday.

“Every single dollar we raise goes to help a kid who may or may not ever get a present for Christmas,” Scholle said. “We get together, we do a good thing, and we try to be anonymous as possible, but it’s too hard at this point. ... The idea behind it was to be a Secret Santa.”

Keating has been with the organization for about 20 years; Scholle said he has been doing it for at least 25 years. Both of them said they do it for the children.

“Plus, we have a lot of fun doing it, too,” Keating said.

As the hour approached 8 a.m. Monday and more and more families poured into Blumen Gardens to help the Goodfellows pass out Christmas gifts, Scholle commented that he had never seen so many people come in for deliveries.

“It’s a feel-good thing for everyone,” Scholle said. “It’s not about getting, it’s about giving.”

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