Annual Goodfellows event spreads cheer for record-setting number of families
SYCAMORE – Vince, Sophie and Presley could hardly wait to get two turns (each) to deliver bags of clothing to families in need during Goodfellows’ annual Christmas Eve distribution event.
“I thought it would be a really good opportunity for our kids to learn how to give back to the community and do acts of kindness at Christmas,” said Jennifer Pacaccio, a podiatrist whose work connections helped steer her into a second year of volunteering with Goodfellows.
Pacaccio was there with her daughter Presley, 6; her mom, DeAnn Kerr; and the Binkowski family, with Vince Binkowski, 5, and sister Sophie, 7. The group was full of holiday cheer as it made its way across Sycamore delivering goodies to six families in need.
After a historically low donation year in 2017, this year DeKalb County showed up and showed off with its donations, and Goodfellows was able to serve 450 families – more than 1,100 children were set to receive hats, coats, gloves, socks, boots and other clothing items – the most the charity has ever served.
“The community spirit is so fun to see,” said Tom Doty, another Goodfellows event organizer.
Because this year’s need was so great, organizers encouraged families to take at least four bags each as they spread out across DeKalb County delivering clothing. More than 200 volunteers crammed into the Blumen Gardens, 403 Edwards St. in Sycamore, at the crack of dawn Christmas Eve, fueling with coffee and doughnuts before heading out to spread a little love.
Since the 1930s, volunteers with Goodfellows have collected monetary donations to buy clothing for families. Families give their children’s clothing sizes to local schools, which are passed on to Goodfellows volunteers to buy clothing items at Target in the appropriate sizes. Volunteers donated their time Wednesdays and Saturdays to wrap the items before Christmas Eve.
“We’re fulfilling a need,” said Sandy Lancaster of Sycamore, an event organizer who has been volunteering with Goodfellows for 30 years.
“I grew up volunteering in 4-H and at church,” Lancaster said. “So I understand the need and benefits of volunteering. My son asked me what my favorite thing about Christmas was, and I said Goodfellows.”
For an hour, Pacaccio piled all the kids into her vehicle and headed up the hunt for houses in Sycamore, identified by the tag on each bag. One by one, Vince, Sophie and Presley took turns lugging the bags up stairs, ringing doorbells, knocking on screen doors and exclaiming “Hello! Merry Christmas!” as each door opened to greet the crowd.
At one point, Sophie and Presley even got to say “Feliz Navidad” to a family.
In the car rides between houses, Vince said his favorite part about Christmas is the presents.
“But it’s not about presents, it’s about Jesus’ birth,” Presley chimed in.
That spirit of care and authenticity seemed contagious, and families across the county have taken it in stride, making service a core part of their Christmas traditions.
“Just to get a doughnut, I ran into three patients and my old dentist,” Pacaccio said, in awe of the number of dedicated volunteers in attendance Christmas Eve. “It’s just cool to see. For a lot of families, the kids are home from college, and they’ve been doing this for years.”
“That might be us someday,” she said.