Goodfellows prepares for annual party

This year marks the 96th time the Owensboro Goodfellows Club has held its Christmas party for disadvantaged children.

But it also marks the 100th anniversary of the year that the people of Owensboro began rallying to make sure that every child in the community has a Christmas party.

It all began on Saturday, Dec. 22, 1911, when a group of young women known as both the St. Nicholas Girls and The Charity Girls put up a Christmas tree at the old City Hall at Fourth and St. Ann streets and invited the poor children of the community to a party.

They had planned for 350 children.

But more than 500 came.

That was at a time when Owensboro’s population was 16,011.

The Owensboro Inquirer referred to children “in shabby garments” with “pathetic, thin faces.”

The newspaper account said Santa Claus came to distribute “toys, candy, bananas, apples, gloves, stockings, clothing and shoes” to the children in need that Christmas.

Times were still tough in 1916 as Christmas approached in Owensboro.

And there was a very real possibility that empty stockings would hang in many Owensboro homes on Christmas morning.

Lawrence W. Hager, the 26-year-old general manager of the Owensboro Inquirer, set out that December to write a story about the St. Nicholas Girls’ annual Christmas party.

It would be a heartwarming story that would lead to donations for the party, he thought.

But what he found was that the young women were now busy with families of their own.

And they told Hager that they had decided to end the tradition.

Hager went back to his office on Dec. 9, 1916, and started to write an article saying that poor children would have no Christmas in Owensboro that year.

It would be a year without Santa Claus for many children in the community.

But Hager never finished that story.

Instead, he appealed to the people of Owensboro, inviting them to help create a Goodfellows Club that would carry on the Christmas party tradition.

When the drive was completed, that first Goodfellows Club had raised $524.50.

Doesn’t sound like much today. But a doll could be bought for 18 cents back then.

And $524.50 would be worth about $10,000 today.

It was enough for three Goodfellows Christmas parties in 1916, serving approximately 1,000 children.

There were three parties because there was no place in the city then that could hold 1,000 children.

But for the past six decades, the Sportscenter has held that many and more at Goodfellows parties.

Last year’s drive raised a $154,255.38 despite the recession.

This year’s drive needs that much or more to provide warm clothes and shoes for children along with Christmas presents.

Donations can be made to Goodfellows Club, Messenger-Inquirer, Box 1480, Owensboro, KY 42302, by bringing contributions to the newspaper office at 1401 Frederica St. or online at goodfellowsclubofowensboro.org/contribute/.

Today’s Roll Call

Previously reported …$3,289.55

Robert Shadwick, Sr. Endowment Fund………………….$259.18

In honor of staff from the  Hospitality Club…………………………$200

In memory of Louis Conder Sr. by USW No. 1261……………………….$70

In memory of Evelyn Gore by the Owensboro Messenger Inquirer …….$50

In memory of Nick Brake Sr………….$25

In loving memory of Staff Sgt. Louis Anthony Conder Sr. by Karen Greenwell and Debbie Nunley……….$25

In loving memory of Louis Conder Sr. by Phyllis Holinde………………………..$20

Total as of Nov. 26 …….$3,938.73

Goodfellows Club of Owensboro
401 Frederica Street B203
Owensboro, Kentucky 42301