As January settles in, families are remembering the holidays, which seemed to pass in a blur.
We ate elaborate meals, welcomed houseguests and sustained traditions such as pictures with Santa, baking cookies, exchanging gifts and helping people in need.
Many families have made giving a yearly habit with end-of the-year donations to The World-Herald’s Goodfellows fund, in some cases passing their support for the 125-year-old organization down through several generations.
“I’m continually amazed at the generosity of our community and how many people have made giving to Goodfellows a family tradition,” said Sue Violi, the fund’s executive director.
Generous donors from 16 states gave $640,885 to Goodfellows in this season’s campaign, which ran from Nov. 1, 2019, to Jan. 6, 2020.
Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates
Receive a summary of the day’s popular and trending stories from Omaha.com.
That total is about 9% less than last year, Violi said. She attributed the drop to a shorter gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas and changes in tax law.
Violi said the charity will have about $700,000 at the end of the fiscal year. That will include all donations from March 1 through Oct. 31 (before the official campaign) and from now through Feb. 29.
The World-Herald pays all administrative costs, so every dollar donated goes directly to provide one-time emergency aid to area residents who find themselves in crisis. Working with several local nonprofit agencies, Goodfellows helps people with utility bills, rent and other expenses. It also provides holiday meal vouchers and back-to-school clothing.
“The World-Herald and Goodfellows have been helping people in our community for more than 125 years in one way or another,” Violi said. “We are lucky to partner with exceptional agencies.”
Campaign totals might vary from year to year, but the gratitude of recipients and the enthusiasm of donors remain constant.
We wrote about Omahan Angela Brooks early in this year’s campaign. She got help for a rent deposit so she could move into a new townhouse and adjust to life without her late husband. It was hard to live where they had been happy together.
She was overcome when her application for aid from Goodfellows through Family Housing Advisory Services was approved within a day.
“It made me cry,” Brooks said.
Many of the donors this year can be found on donor lists from the past decade and beyond, and many dedications stay the same.
Duane Prorok of Valley had been married to his wife, Zita, for nearly 46 years when she died in 2003. He’s donated in her name ever since.
“She was just a great lady,” he said.
Others continue to give to carry on a legacy from parents, a spouse or other family members.
In 2008, Armel and Maxine MacDonald of Omaha started a giving tradition in honor of their daughter, Heidi MacDonald-Zanussi. Her kidney transplant was successful on Dec. 2 that year, with a donor organ from mom Maxine. They were so grateful that they gave $500 to Goodfellows.
Each year, they add a dollar to their donation. This year, their $511 gift showed up on the Christmas Day donor list in the newspaper and online.
Over the years, thousands of stories have surrounded the campaign. The dedications run the gamut of emotions and make good news items to illustrate the charity’s place in our community and its impact on a diverse population. This year, for example, 1,535 donors from various backgrounds sent in gifts from $2 to $32,000.
“We have such a range of dedications, some funny, some cryptic and some heartbreaking,” Violi said.
An intriguing one popped up near the end of this year’s drive. We didn’t do a story on it, but you can bet it will be one of the first we pursue next year.
“In memory of those we have lost from the ‘Star Trek’ universe,” it said.
It was accompanied by a $5,000 gift.