Thanksgiving is a great time to talk about The World-Herald’s highly regarded Goodfellows charity.
This year’s traditional campaign began this week, raising money to provide one-time emergency assistance for rent and utilities, distribute holiday meal vouchers and provide winter gear and other clothing to children.
It’s a great way for individuals to provide help that they know goes directly to others in their community.
It’s a great way to set aside the acrimony of our times. When we know neighbors are in need, we worry about the human beings, not their politics or vaccination status.
And it’s simply a great way to set a helpful tone for the holiday season.
The World-Herald program may well be the nation’s oldest newspaper-based charity. The Chicago Tribune claims to have started the nation’s first newspaper charity drive in 1909, though The World-Herald in the 1890s began collecting reader donations to help area farmers overcome bad crops and widespread unemployment. In 1910, the Omaha charity was renamed Goodfellows, a name adopted around that time by several newspaper-based charities.
At that point, Goodfellows sought to match 750 needy children with families who promised to provide them with a decent Christmas.
In 1945, World-Herald Goodfellows was chartered as a nonprofit charitable corporation, and since then has distributed more than $16 million in the community.
This year, for the second year, the United Way of the Midlands is administering the program for The World-Herald, collecting and distributing donations. Aside from an administrative fee, all donations are distributed according to Goodfellows guidelines. Goodfellows donations are not mingled with other gifts to the United Way.
Last year, amid the pandemic and the extra needs it created, World-Herald readers gave $650,000, topping the previous year. This year, even though Nebraska has recorded the lowest state unemployment rate in U.S. history, many families continue to have acute needs. Calls to the United Way’s emergency help line have been up dramatically from a normal year.
The impact is indelible. Reporter Betsie Freeman on Sunday told the story of one-time Goodfellows recipient Jolinda “Joey” Loth, a mom of three who lacked insurance through her nearly new job when she was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2013.
The charity paid her rent for a month, and she was featured at the time in a story in the Sunday World-Herald. The aid, and the article that grew out of it, were the catalyst for a cascade of help.
“It took the weight off my shoulders,” Loth told Freeman this year.
Together, we can lift massive weight as families and individuals navigate the tough circumstances that simply are part of life. For more than 120 years, Goodfellows has been there for Omahans. We are deeply grateful on this Thanksgiving for these many decades of your generosity.
To make donations year-round, go to Omaha.com/goodfellows or mail your donation to World-Herald Goodfellows c/o United Way of the Midlands, 2201 Farnam St., Suite 200, Omaha, NE 68102.