Linda Gabrish (left), a paraprofessional at Memorial Elementary School; Debbie Smith, a fourth-grade teacher at Memorial; and Vicky Ballentine, project co-chair, sort through toys and baby clothing collected for holiday distribution through the Riverview Goodfellows.
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
RIVERVIEW – The Riverview Goodfellows hope to ensure that all city residents – especially children – have a happy holiday season.
The service organization, which helps coordinate donations from other area groups, relies on recommendations from teachers and neighbors for recipient referrals. A screening committee then verifies the family’s needs.
Mayor Tim Durand, who has served as the group’s treasurer for over 14 years, said he was pleased by the number of people who helped with donations during tough economic times. Paradoxically, he said, fewer applications than last year were submitted for help from the Goodfellows.
“We are surprised that the need has dropped,” Durand said. “We don’t know what the reason is, but our requests are down. (But) we’re happy to help whoever asks.”
Durand noted, however, that St. Cyprian Catholic Church, 13249 Pennsylvania Road, which runs a community food pantry, has seen an increase in requests for assistance.
The Goodfellows, meanwhile, have benefited from the help of students in meeting recipients’ needs. Riverview Community High School students continued their tradition of fundraising, Durand said, as the Student Council organized a Polar Express for which they sold box cars.
The yearbook class wrote a spoof article about the Polar Express coming to Riverview, he said, that proved so effective that Recreation Department Director Todd Dickman got a call from a resident asking for tickets.
The Cooking Club prepared a lunch for Goodfellow paper sellers the day of the street sale, and the EGAD Club (for Everybody Gives a Darn) organized a toy collection. The National Honor Society collected mittens.
Teacher Sandy Meeks’ character education class at Seitz Middle School raised and bought over $1,000 in toys.
Durand said the Riverview Community School District collected nearly 6,000 cans of food. His wife, Lou Ann, secretary to the Board of Education and Supt. Dennis Desmarais, also contributed.
“My wife had a party where everybody (who) came … brought hats, mittens, gloves and things like that,” Durand said.
The Full Moon Bar and Grille in Riverview surprised the Goodfellows by collecting over $500, and several hundred dollars’ worth of toys and canned goods.
“I was truly overwhelmed this year by how many people helped,” Durand said.