A proud, century-long tradition of giving in Decatur County continued on a chilly Christmas Eve morning at Greensburg’s Knights of Columbus Monday.
The Daily News Cheer Fund, now in it’s 101st year, was back in full force, aimed at brightening the Christmas mornings of disadvantaged families throughout the county.
Dozens gathered across the expanse of the Knights of Columbus Hall, filling a seemingly endless line of automobiles with toys, games, stuffed animals and easy-to-prepare foods and snacks. The 2012 iteration of the Cheer Fund’s “elf” brigade was comprised of men, women, boys and girls of all ages, from those just beginning school to many who have long since retired from the workforce. But no matter who they were or from where they came, their mission was the same as it’s always been: lending a hand to those among us who need it most.
Daily News publisher Laura Welborn said this year’s Cheer Fund assisted more than 300 local families, and among them, more than 800 children. Both figures are all-time highs.
The tough economic climate has led to multitudes of families struggling financially throughout the country, so the many Cheer Fund “elves” did their jolly work in the hopes of alleviating some of that burden.
And those on the receiving end were far more than merely appreciative Christmas Eve morning.
“This IS our Christmas,” said one Cheer Fund recipient Monday. “This is our Santa Claus. It helps a lot and we just really appreciate it.”
Another family, one dealing with the recent loss of a job and the beginning of another, called the Cheer Fund “a wonderful organization.” The recipient said, “I think it’s wonderful that there are organizations like this out there.”
Deliveries spanned the entirety of the county, from St. Paul to the Jennings County line and everywhere in-between. Many of those helping were veterans of the program, while others were taking their first steps into being part of the venerable holiday tradition.
Begun in 1911 by former Daily News publisher James Caskey, the Cheer Fund has continued earnestly and steadfastly, marching on through the Great Depression, several economic recessions, two world wars and multiple other armed conflicts. With the exception of a couple years in the 1940s, the Cheer Fund has persisted in spite of the economy, in war and in peace. And though those who began the tradition more than a century ago are no longer with us, their progeny carries on their proud work today.
As times have changed, the Cheer Fund has evolved as well.
With the hectic daily life of so many citizens, sitting down to a family dinner has become a thing of the past for many. In that regard, this year’s Cheer Fund organizers opted for foods that are more “snackable” and easier to prepare than a traditional Christmas dinner. Families received bologna, eggs, bread, milk and a variety of items perfect for quick, small meals. Children themselves will be able to prepare many of the foods given to them this year, ensuring they’ll have food throughout their Christmas breaks. This endeavor may also free up extra funds for families in order to allow for a more elaborate holiday meal should they choose to prepare one.
One difficulty faced this year by Cheer Fund organizers was simply garnering enough funds to meet the needs of the many struggling families throughout the community. Setting a goal of $49,500, the group came up short by more than $10,000, according to cheerfund.org, the Cheer Fund’s official website.
In spite of a somewhat grim financial outlook, the Decatur County citizens who braved the cold Monday morning did so in the name of giving and honoring the season as much as the charitable institution’s heritage.
If the smiles and goodwill on display Monday were any indication, it appears the spirit of the holidays, as well as the Cheer Fund itself, are in good hands.
Donations are accepted year-round at www.cheerfund.org. The organization also has a Facebook page.
Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056