BLOOMINGTON — Four new mouths to feed had Tasha Davis looking for a little help for Thanksgiving this year.
“I just got custody of my grandkids, so four new people living in my home — this is helpful, really helpful,” she said, picking up a turkey and other food items from Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Bloomington the week before Thanksgiving.
As part of The Pantagraph Goodfellow Fund, 150 turkeys were distributed at Mount Pisgah over two days leading up to the holiday.
The Goodfellow Fund, which was started in The Pantagraph newsroom 94 years ago, works to serve the community.
"Wherever there’s a need, we try to fill it,” said Jonell Kehias, Central Illinois regional marketing director for Lee Enterprises and Goodfellow trustee.
“It’s all through the generosity of our readers,” who donate to the fund throughout the year but primarily in November and December, Kehias said.
Lukas Schimpf and Aimee Mahathy said the turkey and other supplies from the Mount Pisgah pantry will help them prepare for a holiday with their found family in Bloomington.
“It really helps out because by the time we get to the turkeys (at the grocery store) with work, all of them are gone or we just haven’t had a chance to afford one yet, so it’s just really nice,” Schimpf said.
Mahathy said they have a “friendsgiving” with Schimpf’s bandmates to celebrate the holiday.
Cynthia Ashby, superintendent of Sunday Bible class and a volunteer for the food pantry, said giving out a turkey per household helps add to the traditional fixings the church can provide.
“This definitely helps us out during the holidays. … Some people will come just to get a turkey and then they found out, well, there are some additional things that I can get,” Ashby said while loading cars with groceries ranging from boxed potatoes and stuffing to bread and even desserts. “A lot of us are already blessed with a lot of stuff, so making sure that others are blessed as well. … We want to make sure that the families are taken care of.”
The Goodfellow program has grown and evolved several times since 1927, when a newsroom employee delivered firewood to a family in need on Christmas Eve — the recipient calling him “a good fellow.”
“We have some people who give year after year after year and all kinds of donations. We get $5 checks; we get $5,000 checks, and every amount is appreciated,” Kehias said.
Throughout the years, the donations have funded coats for The Salvation Army; backpacks and school supplies for high school students through the Back2School Alliance, blankets for seniors; and clothes and toys at the annual McLean County Children’s Christmas Party.
“We try to complement what other agencies are doing and … work through other agencies because they know where the need is,” Kehias said.
The value of items being donated this year will be close to $60,000, Kehias said.
During the 2020 Christmas season, 581 donors contributed almost $65,000 to Goodfellow.
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Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.
“It’s all through the generosity of our readers."
— Jonell Kehias, Goodfellow trustee