JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. -- Organizers behind a nearly century-old tradition of giving in Johnson County are asking for help in the midst of a shortened holiday season.
Donations for the Good Cheer Fund of Johnson County are running below the organization’s goals this year. Chairman Jake Sappenfield says this year’s late Thanksgiving could be partially to blame.
“I would say with Thanksgiving being later this year, the donations got off to a slower start,” Sappenfield said. “I think that once Thanksgiving is over with, people get into the Christmas season and start thinking about what they normally do every year, whether that’s giving, whether that’s referring somebody for a food basket.”
Since 1921, the Good Cheer Fund has collected donated food and funding in order to distribute holiday food baskets for families in need throughout the Johnson County community. Between now and Christmas Eve, the fund plans to deliver more than 800 food baskets to provide holiday meals for families selected through an application process.
As of last week, the fund had collected about $11,000 toward their $40,000 goal. Since then, Sappenfield says a large private donation and a Rotary Club fish fry had brought the total to around $30,000.
“We lost a week, just a shrinkage of time,” Sappenfield said. “So everything is condensed.”
Sappenfield said the Good Cheer Fund typically goes 11 months of the year with no donations before contributions start coming in after Thanksgiving.
Students and staff members at area schools have been collecting canned food items for the basket distribution. Sappenfield hopes to add about 25,000 donated canned food items to fresh food for the baskets.
“It’s one of those things where they know that all the canned goods are going to families in their districts,” he said.
This weekend, hundreds of volunteers will gather in several locations to organize, sort and prepare the 800 baskets for delivery on Saturday and Christmas Eve. The majority of the baskets will be organized at the Johnson County REMC facility, just off U.S. 31 in Franklin.
“It’s really fun to see when everybody comes together,” said Johnson County REMC CEO John Sturm. “It’s a little bit of chaos, but it’s organized chaos, and we get those baskets out to the people that need it.”
“One of our guiding principles here is commitment to community. So we’re just pleased to help out in any way we can,” Sturm said.
“Everybody there understands the importance of what we’re trying to do, and it’s a really cool thing to see,” Sappenfield said.
Sappenfield said food supplies for this year’s baskets have already been ordered, but a shortfall in donations could now impact planning for next year’s effort. He hopes to avoid that.
“I know people in this community understand what the Good Cheer Fund is. This is our 99th year,” Sappenfield said. “So they come through, usually, every year. Just sometimes we need a reminder.”
Donations to the Good Cheer Fund of Johnson County can be mailed to their address at P.O. Box 237, Franklin, IN 46131.
You can also donate online on the Johnson County Community Foundation website by selecting Good Cheer of Johnson County Fund as the fund you’d like to contribute to.