By Amanda Browning Daily News
Greensburg Daily News
---- — GREENSBURG – For 102 years, the Daily News Cheer Fund has delivered gifts, food, clothing vouchers and a healthy dose of Christmas cheer to many of the less fortunate families of Decatur County- and this past season was no exception.
Due to the generosity of the people and businesses of Greensburg and Decatur County, once again, the Cheer Fund met and even exceeded its fundraising goal. This year’s goal was $53,500 and the final amount raised is $ 57,669 and counting, as donations continue to be turned into the Daily News.
The tough economic atmosphere looked to prove a challenge for Cheer Fund organizers, with many people having less to donate. Donations came in slowly during the early phases of fundraising, with much of the money being donated in the final days before Cheer Fund delivery and continuing after the season.
This year, a record-breaking 339 Families were approved for Cheer Fund benefits, with a collective 867 children among them. Very few applications were denied, with the majority of those denials due to not having school-age children in the home, or otherwise not meeting application guidelines.
Cheer Fund President Joe Rust said one of the challenges the charitable organization faced this year was changing the food mix from the more traditional holiday meal to easy-to-prepare foods that help provide nutrition to children during the extended break from school.
Rust also said there is always a bit of a mental challenge to set an appropriate fundraising goal that will both provide enough for all recipients and can also be raised by the community. Because the goal was met after the season this year, Rust reported that Cheer Fund will already have some of their work done next Christmas.
Daily News publisher Laura Welborn said another challenge the Cheer Fund faced this year was having longtime food chairman, Bob Navarra, step down from the board because of health issues. Both Welborn and Rust extended their gratitude to Navarra for his many years of service to the Cheer Fund. Sean Durbin stepped in to take Navarra’s position as food chairman.
“It was a challenging year, with long-time board members stepping down, others stepping up and a record number of families applying for assistance. All this was followed up by a phenomenal amount of funds being raised to help those families in need,” Welborn said. “That’s why Decatur County and this community are great – it’s the caring community spirit that I love so much.”
In addition to the new types of food Cheer Fund recipients received, there were also donations of milk, eggs, apples and a variety of items from food drives at local schools, Welborn said. Decatur County Memorial Hospital also donated toothbrushes, toys, hats and mittens.
The Cheer Fund is an exclusively volunteer organization and the Christmas miracles delivered to families all over the county wouldn’t be possible without the extensive network of people volunteering their time to make it happen. This year, Rust estimated there were around 300 volunteers, helping to sort and pack boxes, as well as loading and delivering packages.
The morning of Christmas Eve, helpers flooded into the Knights of Columbus hall in the early hours to begin loading the holiday packages into vehicles, which were then sent all over Greensburg and Decatur County to be delivered. Rust said the volunteers showed an amazing outpouring of community support and he is always impressed by the scope of all the deliveries.
“The delivery is always the most moving experience. If you haven’t seen it or taken part, you just can’t imagine that many volunteers working that hard. The wind was bitter cold that morning and people just kept loading,” Rust said. “Nobody stopped because they were too cold. It just went off like clockwork.”
Rust said there were a few things he’d have changed this year, like improving the application process. The Cheer Fund spoke to local schools to find out where there was need, as they don’t want to miss anyone who needs help. For next year, Rust said he’d like to see the gift certificate dollar amounts raised. With all the after-the-season donations, that may be a distinct possibility.
Overall, both Welborn and Rust were pleased with the outcome of this year’s Cheer Fund season and look forward to improving things next year. Gratitude was at the forefront of their minds when they spoke to the Daily News.
“We’re always thankful for the Knights of Columbus. They donate the hall to us at a time when they could easily rent it out for their own purposes. We also thank the Daily News for their sponsorship,” Rust said. “They allow all the funds collected to be used for the families because they absorb the costs.”
Rust and Welborn extended their thanks to the community that gave of themselves to make this year’s Cheer Fund possible. Without the generosity and kind spirits of the people of Decatur County, the funds wouldn’t have been raised to provide the holiday packages for the families in need.
“As always, we want to thank the community for their support. It’s an amazing effort every year. People know what to do and you never have to beg for help. I doubt that many people have seen something so exclusively volunteer that you almost have to turn people away because so many want to help,” Rust said. “It’s a problem we love to have.”
Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004; firstname.lastname@example.org