The Owensboro Goodfellows Club has had a Christmas party for disadvantaged children in the community every year since 1916.

The parties continued through the Spanish Influenza, World War I, the Great Depression and World War II.

The coronavirus pandemic means that Goodfellows will still be able to get presents to children at the Sportscenter on Dec. 19.

But there won’t be a party.

“We can’t have a party at the Sportscenter because of COVID,” Bob Clark, Goodfellows president, said this week.

“We looked at having parties at multiple locations, but we couldn’t make that work,” he said. “So we’re going to use the Sportscenter for a distribution point.”

Clark said Family Resource Centers at local schools will give the Goodfellows Club the names of children who need help at Christmas and information to help the club select gifts for the children.

“We usually have about 1,000 children at the party,” he said. “But so far this year, only around 300 have applied.”

Clark said the budget from the annual Roll Call in the Messenger-Inquirer has been cut to $106,600 this year — from $162,000 last year.

“We expect that COVID will knock us down 30% this year,” he said. “Our expenses are expected to be $168,000.”

Clark said, “We’re applying for a gaming license for next year, so we can have raffles like other nonprofits.”

For 104 years, the organization has put away money in a Rainy Day Fund.

And this year is a rainy day.

Goodfellows will have to tap into the fund for the first time, Clark said.

People can still help the organization through the Roll Call, which starts today in the Messenger-Inquirer.

The club’s story began in December 1916 when Lawrence W. Hager, whose family owned the afternoon newspaper, the Owensboro Inquirer, set out to write a story about a Christmas party for needy children.

An organization called the Charity Girls had sponsored Christmas parties for children in Owensboro since 1911.

It would be a feel-good story.

But Hager discovered that the organization was disbanding because the members were settling into marriages and raising families.

Hager, who was later editor and publisher of the combined Messenger-Inquirer, decided not to write a story about the end of Christmas parties for poor children.

Instead, he decided to start his own. Christmas was for children, he said.

And no child should be forgotten at Christmas.

The Goodfellows Club was born that day.

That first year, Owensboroans gave $524.50 to provide a party for 1,200 children. In addition to the toys, that money provided for 1,000 pairs of socks and $150 worth of food.

But expenses have grown through the years.

Most of us don’t see kids sent to school in worn-out, inappropriate clothing. Or children suffering from toothaches because of a lack of proper dental care. Or children wearing shoes that don’t fit but without money at home to replace them.

But they’re there and the Goodfellows Club is still there for them throughout the year.

The Goodfellows Club has evolved through the years.

In 1921, it began buying underwear for needy children. Nine years later, shoes were added.

In 1980, Goodfellows began providing coats, jackets and sweaters. Hats, jeans and shirts were added in 1981.

And in 1985, emergency dental care was added to the program.

Competition for benefit dollars is keener than ever now.

But those who wonder how the money is really spent can know that every cent of their money is used for the children.

There are no paid workers or officers in the Goodfellows Club.

Because of Covid-19, in person donations at the Messenger-Inquirer are currently unavailable.

Contributions to the Goodfellows Club can be mailed to: Goodfellows Club, Messenger-Inquirer, P.O. Box 1480, Owensboro, KY 42302 or made online at www.goodfellowsclubofowensboro.org/donate.

Goodfellows Roll CallPreviously reported $150,287.50

Killian Foundation $7,500

Anonymous $1,335

Citizens Health Care Advocates $1,000

Owensboro Middle School Coin War $580.18

Kiwanis Club of Owensboro $500

Anonymous $500

One Williams Center matching grant

For Joy Triplett $500

William M. and Sherry O’Bryan

Charitable $500

Schwab Charitable Fund $500

William M. and Sherry O’Bryan

Charitable Fund $500

Minds Eye Society, House of Eternal

Light $339

East View Elementary School $315.21

In memory of Beulah Mae Kasinger

Cambron by Richard Koehler $200

Anonymous $100

In memory of Ann Wooten Sabetta

By Thomas Sabetta $100

In memory of Allen McKelvey and

Sandy Andersen by R. Daniel

Andersen $100

David and Karen Boeyink $100

Kroger Rewards $84.57

H.G. Kline $30

In memory of our parents by James and Mary Beller $25

Anonymous $13

Total as of Nov. 26, $165,109.46 (for last year’s campaign)

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301 klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301

klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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