MOLINE -- There were many big tears and smiles at local social service agencies and community organizations that helped The Dispatch Good Fellow and The Rock Island Argus Santa Fund spread holiday cheer and wealth.
To date, the holiday campaign has raised $37,089.26, with just $2,910.74 needed to reach the $40,000 goal.
Money raised helped 13 area agencies treat selected families, children and elderly with holiday gift certificates.
The newspapers gave special assistance to a handful of people in need of such things as enough beds for their children or other basic furniture, including a dining room table or couch.
Another family got a high chair for a special needs child, and another was able to get needed car repairs done. An elderly couple got a new walker and a talking Bible.
Participating local agencies were:Aldridge Early Learning Center, Bethany for Children & Families, Child Abuse Council, Boys & Girls Club of the Mississippi Valley, Just Kids Early Care & Education, Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, Project NOW, Skip-a-Long Child Development, InTouch Adult Day Services, Rock Island County Senior Center, Illinois Division of Rehabilitation, ARC of the Quad-Cities Area, and Christian Friendliness Association.
Bethany helped 154 people (71 percent of them children) from 45 families, community services division director Mary Ann McLeod said. She said they usedthe gift certificates for a variety of things, such as toys, household goods and groceries.
"We love the Good Fellow Argus Santa program," she said. "We think it's wonderful. Without it, we know some of the people we serve wouldn't be able to provide for their families during the holidays, and there's nothing like seeing the joy on their faces when they get some help. They appreciate it so much."
The Boys and Girls Club of the Mississippi Valley, in Moline, helped 45 club members thanks to the holiday campaign, according to development director Genevieve Babecki. Gift certificates were handed out during a Christmas party at the club. Each child also got a free stuffed animal from Kohl's and was treated to a Mexican dinner prepared by staff members, she said.
People were so grateful, staff member Liz Zimmerman said. "You could see the relief on parents' faces when they got extra money for the holidays."
"It meant that all the boys and girls got to have something special this holiday season," Ms. Babecki said. "Otherwise, they wouldn't have gotten such great presents and needed items such as winter coats, shoes and boots and socks."
Just Kids Early Care and Education, in Milan, helped 149 people in 45 families, spokeswoman Kelly Mayerhofer said.
"We think it is an absolutely wonderful program," she said. "In this economy, when you give parents a couple of extra dollars, you feel like you've given them the world. It's good to see them put a smile on their face, after facing a stressful day of work, knowing they have to go home and cook dinner right away. We had a lot of surprised people, who left with big smiles on their faces."
At Skip-A-Long Child Development Services' Moline campus, 40 kids from about 25 families were helped, family service provider Maggie Whitten said.
Families filled out lists of wants and needs, and "we helped fill about 90 percent of what was on their list," she said. "Instead of giving them the cards, we went shopping, and we did all the wrapping."
More than a dozen staff members spent their lunch breaks shopping or wrapping presents, Ms. Whitten said. "It took us about a week, spending a couple hours a day."
She said it was pretty amazing to see how much good was done because of the generosity of the Good Fellow and Argus Santa program, she said.
Ms. Whitten was particularly moved watching the reaction of one mom when staff members brought out a couple wheel-wagon loads. The woman started crying as another staff member added an armful of other gifts. "She said 'this will make it one of the best Christmases ever for my family."
InTouch Adult Day Services used Good Fellow and Argus Santa gift cards to help 60 adults, program nurse Amy Iams said.Many of them had tears in their eyes, she said.
"They were overwhelmed that somebody cared so much," Ms. Iams said. "I heard so many of them say they didn't know they were going to get their medication, food and holiday items last month and called it a blessing that they wouldn't have to struggle as much after getting this help."
Gift cards given to the Illinois Division of Rehabilitation and ARC of the Quad-Cities Area, made the holidays better for 179 people, employment resource specialist Tom Lowery said.
"They were so grateful that the Good Fellow and Argus Santa Fund came along," he said. "A couple of the grandmas said it was the only money they would get to use for presents for their grandchildren, and almost to a person, everyone said it helped them have a nice Christmas dinner."
The annual newspapers' campaign definitely fills a need in the community, especially for people experiencing desperate times during the holidays, Mr. Lowery said
To fill those needs and future ones, campaign volunteers would greatly appreciate additional contributions to help finish achieving this season's $40,000 goal.
The Dispatch Good Fellow and The Rock Island Argus Santa Fund has been making the holidays bright for the less fortunate for 105 years.
Last year, the fund helped 360 families with 909 children, plus another 260 low-income seniors and disabled people.
Donations from area residents, businesses and civic groups may be made in one of four convenient ways: — Make a secure donation online at QCOnline.com/goodfellow. — Send a check to Good Fellow, c/o Dispatch/Argus, 1720 5th Ave., Moline, IL 61265. — Drop off a donation at the Dispatch/Argus customer service counter, first floor, 1720 Fifth Ave., Moline. — Use the drive-through window at the circulation office at the corner of 6th Avenue and 18th Street in downtown Moline.
Donations only are used for special holiday assistance and not for everyday agency programs.
The newspapers' promotion department coordinates the program. Administrative costs are paid by The Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.
The Argus Santa Holiday Fund was established in 1908, followed by the Dispatch Good Fellow in 1912. The programs merged in 1987 after The Dispatch bought The Rock Island Argus. The fund is recognized as a 501 (c)(3) charitable corporation by the IRS.
Recent contributors are:
For Dick Collins from Susan Collins, $25 Martha Gaulrapp, $100 Tina and Aric Eckhardt, $75 In memory of Howard and Ione Clark, from your loving daughters, $50 Barbara Richards and Jon Cook, $35 From the 7 A's, $100 James and Nancy Chadwick, $25 In memory of the Sandy Hook victims and their families, $100 Prince of Peace Circle of King's Daughters of Moline, $100
Today is Friday, Dec. 13, the 347th day of 2013. There are 18 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: Merry sleigh bells jingle in our streets in the wake of a driving northwest storm of snow and rain. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Thomas Campbell was elected commander of John Buford Post 243, Grand Army of the Republic. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Thomas B. Reidy was named consul of C.W. Hawes Camp No. 1550, and L.H. Eihl was named consul of Camp 29, Modern Woodmen of America. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island aldermen last night upheld the view of a petition signed by 150 businessmen that the city should not install parking meters. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Total volume during the Christmas mailing season may reach 12 million pieces in Rock Island, according to Rock Island Postmaster Carl J.L. Wessel. 1988 -- 25 years ago: The aromas filling the air at the Rock Island Lines depot in Rock Island soon will be prime rib and roast duck rather than sawdust and plaster. A tourist train will be offering dinner excursions in mid-February or early March, according to Dan Carmody, executive director of the Development Association of Rock Island.