"Know Your Org" is an informational series designed to spotlight some of the wonderful organizations in our community. This month we are highlighting the Canton Goodfellows.
Canton Goodfellows is a non-profit organization that strives to make sure that no Canton child, 18 years or younger, is without presents and food during the holiday season.
Their motto is “No Child Without a Christmas.” The organization strives to serve as many needy Canton families as possible every year by supplying each family with toys and gifts for their children, a box of food for the family, and gift cards for the purchasing of additional food. The volunteers’ hard work delivers joy to numerous Canton families. It is most rewarding for them to imagine the kids’ smiling faces as they open their gifts.
We reached out to Natalie Theisen, the president of the Canton Goodfellows, to gain more insight into the No Child Without a Christmas campaign.
How does the No Child Without a Christmas application process work?
Each year, applications are available in mid-September. Parents can do the following:
- Pick up an application packet at the Canton Public Library or at the Canton Clerk's Office in the administration building.
- Print out an application packet from the Canton Goodfellows' website.
Families must supply documents of proof for the following guidelines:
- You must live in Canton.
- Your children must live with you.
- Your family must meet the Goodfellows' guidelines for a family of your size.
- Your application must be postmarked by a set date in mid-October.
Applications are analyzed on a first come, first served basis, until the maximum capacity is met, and families are sent an approved or denied postcard. Approved families can pick up their packages on a set date in early December at the Canton Administration Building.
Where do the children’s gifts, food boxes and gift cards come from?
The children’s gifts come from a variety of sources. The Canton Goodfellows has a program called Sponsor-a-Child. The sponsors are assigned a child or group of children in mid-October, and they will receive more information about the child as well as gift guidelines.
The organization also holds an annual toy drive at the Summit on the Park. Summit patrons can pick up a tag from the pool wall with a gift noted on it. They can purchase the item and deliver it into a box at the Summit. If the Goodfellows does not have everything that they need for a child from the sponsor and the toy drive, they will send out their team of shoppers to buy what is needed.
The Goodfellows also holds an annual nonperishable food drive at Holiday Market in November, where customers can purchase food items from a supplies list and donate them. The food is then boxed for pick-up by families in need.
The organization also purchases food shopping gift cards for families. Goodfellows President Natalie Thiesen tells us that purchasing gift cards for food is by far their largest expense each year. "In some years, we receive grants, which we earmarked for the gift cards. Every year, we also receive many donations from individual Canton community members. Canton is a community of incredible donors!" she says.
What is the history of the Canton Goodfellows?
For over 70 years, the Canton Goodfellows has provided help and support for community members. Canton residents Edward Hauk and Robert Waldecker started the group in the 1940s. Many people in Canton know of the Goodfellows' work through Nancy Spencer, who began volunteering with Canton Goodfellows in the mid-1980s. She and Ruth Wiles, who served as secretary, organized the annual paper sale which became Goodfellows' main source of funds.
In the 1990s, Nancy was elected president of the Canton Goodfellows, a position she held until her death in 2012. She started the Adopt-a-Child program, which is now the Sponsor-a-Child program. In 2013, John Spencer, Nancy’s husband, was voted president. He remained in the position until March 2018, when he decided to pass on leadership to other Canton Goodfellows members.
Natalie took over as president in 2018. Having now served in this position for seven years, she plans on handing off the presidency in 2024. In preparation for this change, some of the group's younger members felt that the Goodfellows' data input method needed to be streamlined. To lessen the time spent on manually inputting the data, they are currently working on the implementation of an online application process which will be rolled out for the 2023 holiday season.
What is the best way to get involved?
Check out the Get Involved page on the Canton Goodfellows website. This page contains lots of information about the following activities:
- How to become a volunteer via the Canton Leisure Services Volunteer Coordinator.
- Sponsor-a-Child (assignments start in mid-October and there’s no need for a volunteer application).
- Volunteering during the Goodfellows' work week in early December.
- Purchasing a toy or gift during the Summit Toy Drive.
You can also support the Goodfellows' mission by:
- Making a monetary donation to help pay for family food gift cards. See the Donate page on their website.
- Becoming a Canton Goodfellows member. Get in contact with the group by sending a message through the Contact page on their website.
What's one thing you wish more people knew about the Canton Goodfellows?
"The Canton Goodfellows organization would like to see more young, energetic people join us in our noble mission," Theisen says. "We have a very small group of active members. As some of us grow older, we need to be able to pass on the jobs that we now do in order to keep our organization alive. Canton Goodfellows is a very rewarding organization to be involved in because it is all about the kids. Everything you want to know about the Canton Goodfellows is on our website."
Important Dates for 2023
- September 15: family applications available.
- October 14: due date for applications. Printed applications must be post-marked and online applications submitted by October 14.
- December 9: family pick-up day.
If you are interested in volunteering, make sure to contact the Canton Leisure Services Volunteer Coordinator in early September to apply. The contact information is on the Get Involved page on the Canton Goodfellows website. Volunteers are needed for the following dates:
- Mid-October: sponsoring children.
- November 17-19: Holiday Market Food Drive.
- Mid-November to December 1: Summit Toy Drive.
- November 30 & December 1: sponsor bag drop-off days.
- December 4 & 5: bag checking days.