Firefighters hand out newspapers to brighten Christmas for area families
By Jim Newell
Sometimes, Santa doesn’t wear a red outfit with fluffy white trim.
This year, as they have done for more than a half century, the Orion Township Firefighter Goodfellows will don their fire gear and share the Santa role with Kris Kringle.
On Saturday, the Goodfellows, for the 54th year, will be selling special editions of The Lake Orion Review and taking donations in a firefighter boot to raise funds for their annual Christmas program.
The Goodfellows will be at Odanah and M-24 near the Orion Veterans Memorial beginning at 8 a.m. and will stay throughout the morning.
“And if traffic’s still good and people are donating, we’ll be there in the afternoon,” said Captain Eric Florence, president of the Orion Goodfellows
The Goodfellows hope to raise enough money so they can assemble baskets to help families put presents under the tree this Christmas.
Families who need a little extra help over the holidays are typically identified through community organizations, word-of-mouth or through recommendations from Lake Orion schools.
Last year, the Goodfellows helped 27 families with a Christmas basket of food and toys.
Unfortunately, the Goodfellows may have to lower the number of families they support, depending on how fundraising goes on Saturday.
“In any given year we help 25-30 families. This year, my guess is that we’re going to help somewhere around 15, maybe 20 at the maximum, unless we have an unbelievable boot drive and can do more,” Florence said.
The Christmas baskets usually contain a holiday dinner, presents for the kids and food for a family for up to a week. The Goodfellows motto is ‘No kid without a Christmas,’” Florence said.
However, because of the pandemic, the Goodfellows have to make some changes this year.
Usually, after collecting monetary, food and toy donations, and then shopping for additional gifts and food needed to fill their Christmas baskets, the firefighters and their families and friends would meet at a fire station and organize, pack and deliver the baskets on Christmas Eve.
“We’re not able to do that this year because of COVID. The fire stations are locked down pretty tight. Public foot traffic is down to a minimum. And we can’t have indoor groups larger than ten (people),” Florence said.
“So, what we’re going to do this year is our present portion of what we normally do. Our food basket portion, we’re going to recommend those families to the Lions Club,” Florence said. “And we’ll do our typical coats, boots and gloves donations if families need it.”
The Goodfellows and Fire Association frequently work together to support their community programs. This year, the firefighters had to cancel their Run with Fire 5k and the Firemen’s Ball, both of which are fundraisers for the fire department.
“The Firemen’s Ball is tentatively rescheduled for March (2021). We’re hoping, we’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Florence said.
Even in the pandemic, the Goodfellows wanted to continue with their Christmas basket program because the need is great this year.
“It’s a double-edged sword. We’re so restricted this year but we feel like families need help even more this year than in year’s past,” Florence said. “I’m sure during the initial lockdown there were families who were out of work. And now, some families in the restaurant or service industry right now, some are really struggling. Even if it’s not as many families as we normally help, we want to do something and help where we can.”
The Goodfellows will likely stage the toys in someone’s garage.
“And then the families that normally help out on Christmas Eve will come one at a time to wrap gifts, pick up their group of presents and go. It allows us to spread everything out so that we avoid the large groups,” Florence said. “But we can still use anyone who wants to volunteer to help, especially with wrapping.”
Florence said the Goodfellows welcome high school students who may want to volunteer and earn service hours.
To volunteer, contact the Goodfellows through their Facebook page, facebook.com/OrionGoodfellows, or email Capt. Eric Florence at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone who would like to donate to the Goodfellows can make checks out to Orion Firefighter Goodfellows and mail to 3130 W. Clarkston Rd., Lake Orion, MI 48362.
“Or they can contact us through the Facebook page or email and we’ll come pick it up from them,” Florence said.
The Lake Orion Review staff offer our most heartfelt gratitude and cheers to the Goodfellows for their continued commitment to the Orion community.