| Port Huron Times Herald
There are a lot of people in need in St. Clair County — especially during the winter months, said Mary Meadows, the new president of the Port Huron Old Newsboys. Meadows is taking the helm of an organization best-known for it’s iconic winter fundraiser of newspaper hawking, clad in orange vests and carrying copies of the Times Herald.
But the organization was forced to end the tradition last year due to declining returns and volunteers. Meadows and the rest of the organization are looking for ways to continue their mission buying boots, socks and underwear for children in need.
“We need to take care of ourselves with one large community,” Meadows said. “We all need to be involved in making everyone’s life peaceable and more enjoyable.”
Founded in 1927, the Port Huron Old News Boys are coming up on their 100th anniversary. For all that time, the organization has raised money to buy winter boots and other clothing essentials for children in need in St. Clair County.
The Old Newsboys is charting a new course as it approaches its centennial anniversary. And its board has elected a new president who is determined to see the organization through.
“We do believe we’re going to make it,” Meadows said. “Even with the struggles we’ve had, even with the donors, we feel we’re going to make it.”
Meadows, pastor at Kimball Calvary Gospel Church in Kimball Township, has just been chosen as the Port Huron Old Newsboys’ new president, the first woman to serve as president of the organization. As the organization rounds out its 94th year, Meadows is tasked with reorienting the Old Newsboys as it moves into the future.
Meadows’ involvement with the Old Newsboys began when she was volunteering with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, clearing names for referrals to the Old Newsboys voucher program. About four or five years ago, she became a board member for the Old Newsboys.
Former Old Newsboys President Ed Weichsler said he nominated Meadows for the role due to her experience as a foster parent whose foster children used the program, her experience with DHHS and her character.
“She understands altruism — because she lives it,” Weichsler said.
Socks, boots and underwear
Beginning with its founding in 1927, the Port Huron Old Newsboys have raised money every holiday season to provide warm clothing to children in need throughout St. Clair County.
Today this is done through a voucher system, with this year’s voucher worth about $60. The Old Newsboys organization doesn’t distribute any money directly, but uses donated funds to purchase gift cards at Meijer.
Those receiving the cards do so through getting a referral voucher from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. After that, the clients check out at customer service, which makes sure items selected in the store qualify for the voucher program. No cash is given back in change if the family does not use the full balance of its gift card.
“Customer service will always say, ‘You sure you don’t want to go back and pick up some extra underwear or extra socks to max out the voucher?” Weichsler said.
This year, the organization is printing 1,000 vouchers.
A changing landscape
The organization is looking for new ways to connect with donors moving forward. Last year saw the end of the organization’s longstanding tradition of hawking Times Herald newspapers to raise money for the cause. It was the Old Newsboy’s main fundraiser each year.
“It was getting to be more costly than what we received in donations,” Meadows said.
The organization has also seen a drop off in volunteers as some older participants retire, Meadows said. Meadows said the organization will keep an open mind about reestablishing the newspaper hawking if conditions change.
Meanwhile, the Port Huron Old Newsboys are reaching out to other Old Newsboys organizations to see what they have done to innovate their fundraising efforts over the years. Anyone interested in learning more or keeping up with the Port Huron Old Newsboys activities can follow their Facebook page at facebook.com/PortHuronOldNewsboys/.
Anyone looking to donate can mail contributions to P.O. Box 100, Marysville 48040.
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Contact Jeremy Ervin at (810) 989-6273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow him on Twitter @ErvinJeremy.