Goodfellows seek donations to provide Christmas for families in need

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published October 22, 2020

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MADISON HEIGHTS — Organizers with the Madison Heights Goodfellows say donations are desperately needed this year to help the group live up to its motto of “No child without a Christmas.”

The pandemic has forced the Goodfellows to cancel key fundraising events such as their annual newspaper drive the weekend after Thanksgiving, jeopardizing their ability to help families in need this holiday season. At the same time, the pandemic has led to more people being unemployed or underemployed, increasing the need for the Goodfellows’ assistance. It’s a one-two punch that has strained the Goodfellows’ operations, but there are still ways people can help.

Donations of unwrapped toys and clothing appropriate for children ages 5-12 can be dropped off in the lobby of the Madison Heights Police Department, located at 280 W. 13 Mile Road.

Donations of money can also be mailed to Madison Heights City Hall, 300 W. 13 Mile Road, Madison Heights, MI 48071, directed to the Madison Heights Goodfellows.

The Madison Heights branch of the Goodfellows dates back to the mid-1960s, and is currently maintained by a 10-member board of directors, with Madison Heights Police Lt. Alan Fecteau serving as president.

“It would be difficult to estimate how many families over the years have received assistance,” said Madison Heights City Councilman Robert Corbett, a member of the Goodfellows, noting that in recent years, the group has helped about 130-150 families per year.

His wife Linda Corbett, the Goodfellows treasurer, added: “100% of all money collected and donated by the community is used to purchase food, clothing and toys. Year-round, our board members are stalking sales at department stores and major retailers, looking to stretch our resources to meet demand.”

She explained that families are usually recommended to the Goodfellows by teachers and guidance counselors from the local school districts. Volunteers from the Goodfellows follow up with the referrals to confirm their situation and interest in receiving Christmas help from the group.

“During the course of the interview, the representative from the Goodfellows will try to learn a little something about the family and the interests of the children in the home … and we will attempt to match items on a child’s list for Santa with the gifts we’ll provide the family,” Linda Corbett said.

“All volunteers who interview families will tell you how emotionally wrenching many of these interactions are,” she said. “The amount of need families require will vary, but for many mothers and fathers, the Christmas gifts and support the Goodfellows will provide is the difference between no Christmas and a happy one. With an unemployment rate hovering around 8% and wide disparity in economic support among families, we are anticipating a heavy demand for our help this year.”

Bob Corbett said his family’s experience with the Goodfellows stretches back generations.

“In the late 1930s, the Detroit-area Goodfellows ensured my father and his family — beset by illness to my grandfather, and the economic effects of the Great Depression — had a Christmas. Santa Claus, with the help of the Goodfellows, was able to provide my father and his siblings with a box containing socks, fruit and a small toy or two,” Bob Corbett said. “That kindness of strangers many decades ago left a deep imprint on my dad, and moved him to financially support the Goodfellows every Christmas in the years that followed.”

Linda Corbett recounted the ways the Goodfellows helped her side of the family.

“My mother growing up was very poor during the Depression years. My grandparents also accepted assistance from the Goodfellows for their child in order to provide a Christmas,” she said. “Beyond the joy of a gift box or toys she received as a child, my mother was deeply moved by the warmth and kindness of people she didn’t even know. Years later, those memories are what she remembers from those Christmases long ago.”

Now the current community can make a similar difference.  

“In supporting the Goodfellows, the community is really backstopping and uplifting our neighbors who are facing severe challenges this year,” Linda Corbett said. “Job scarcity, underemployment and medical costs are weighing down countless families in our area.”

Community members interested in volunteering to assist the Goodfellows or wishing to contribute toys and gifts can learn more by calling the group’s helpline at (248) 837-2779, or by visiting the Madison Heights Goodfellows page on Facebook.