SYCAMORE – The holiday spirit was alive and thriving Tuesday morning at Blumen Gardens.
The Edwards Street garden center was a beehive of activity as Goodfellows arrived to deliver Christmas gifts to some 900 children in the area. Organizer Brian Scholle said this time of year, anyone can be a Goodfellow.
“Anybody in the community is welcome to volunteer. You don’t sign up; just show up,” Scholle said. “We probably have more than a hundred people out delivering packages. We’ve never kept count.”
Although the organization has existed since around the time of the Great Depression, Rick Turner said it expanded from DeKalb to Sycamore about 20 years ago.
“We’re trying to meet the need where the need is the greatest,” Turner said.
Scholle explained that the Goodfellows get lists of families needing a little extra help through the Women, Infants and Children program and from area schools. About the same time the lists are being compiled, they send a letter seeking support from past donors. They also host their annual “office party” at PJ’s Courthouse Pub & Grille in Sycamore.
Scholle said the entire program cost about $35,000. The office party raises about $12,000, he said.
“There are no administrative costs. Every dollar we raise goes to the kids,” Scholle said.
As the lists are compiled, Scholle said they are delivered to JCPenney in DeKalb, where employees fill them.
“They use sale items, coupons, whatever they can do to get the prices as low as possible,” Scholle said.
Store leader Arlene Goodrich said store associates do the shopping on their down time.
“Many of our associates are involved, but Katie McConville and Lisa Thomason are really involved,” Goodrich said.
The packages are warehoused at Blumen Gardens and wrapped by community volunteers.
“We have wrapping parties a couple of times a week,” Scholle said. “Scouts, Kiwanis, Rotary, whoever – they come and wrap until everything is done.”
On Monday, the organizers grouped the big bags by geographic area in preparation for delivery on Christmas Eve.
About 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, volunteers started arriving. The atmosphere was festive as friends and neighbors greeted each other and chatted. Local musician Craig Mathey played Christmas music on his accordion. And Santa arrived to make a few early deliveries.
By the stroke of 8, volunteers were streaming out the door loaded with packages. If any could not be delivered, they were returned and another volunteer would try again later, Scholle said.
Even though area children are receiving gifts, the volunteers who deliver them get something in return. The Crome family – Roger, Christi, Derrick and Brayden – has volunteered for seven or eight years.
“We felt it was important for our kids to know how to give,” Roger Crome said.
Genoa volunteers Pat and Georgeann Felvey, on hand with their sons Alec and Patrick, have shadowed the organizers all season in preparation for a Goodfellows kickoff in their community in 2014.
“We’ve been delivering packages for about 10 years, and [organizer] Tom Doty approached us about starting in Genoa,” Georgeann Felvey said.
They are working with Genoa residents Bart Lawson and Katie Appleby.
“They introduced us to all their contacts. I’m excited for the kids,” Georgeann Felvey said. “Everyone here is a Goodfellow. It’s not about who did what.”
“It’s about the spirit of Christmas,” Pat Felvey said.