Posted: Nov. 15, 2013 2:36 pm Updated: Nov. 28, 2014 4:17 pm
By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Sheila Jones had endured enough.
About 10 years ago, Jones had just separated from her husband. A medical issue kept her from working for four months, which meant bills for Jones and her youngest daughter were piling up. She was about to leave Quincy and move back home to family in the Quad Cities when she was told that she had been referred as a case in the The Quincy Herald-Whig’s Good News of Christmas campaign.
“It was a horrible time in my life,” Jones said. “But the Good News stepped in and really helped.”
Jones said the program got her back on her feet. She received things for her house and the program helped pay some bills.
"Good News really stepped in and rescued me at a low time in my life,” Jones said.
For 25 years now, the Quincy area has come together to help its own at the holidays. Since its inception, the Good News campaign has helped hundreds of families in need. More than 200 people in 50 cases will benefit from this year’s program, including 128 children. Families throughout the Herald-Whig’s circulation area in Illinois and Missouri have been selected to receive aid by caseworkers familiar with their plight.
Emily Robbearts, a community resources associate with the United Way of Adams County, says cases in this year’s campaign are a little different than those in the past.
“The need changes,” Robbearts said. “When you look at the cases this year, we have quite a few where Mom and Dad are both working, and one of the parents has fallen significantly ill. That has impacted their family’s income. Not only are they trying to rebound from the impact of illness, but it has caused financial stress on the family, too.
“The face of poverty has changed a lot. We have a lot of families this year that are dual income where a situation happened where they lost a significant portion of income and are barely making it.”
At least one family in this year’s group of cases is receiving help for a second time. The case features a grandmother who is taking care of her six grandchildren. The parents are no longer in the picture and the grandmother is supporting them all. When the woman was younger, she was a Good News case when she was trying to raise her children.
“That just shows the vicious cycle of poverty,” said Tom Van Ness, general sales manager of the Herald-Whig who is one of the Good News coordinators. “It can continue to happen if you don’t take action. For this to be helping generations of families and people all around the area is a special deal. I’m not involved with anything that remotely touches this.”
Van Ness and Robbearts said monetary donations to the program are the best way to help. Those donations go toward buying gifts and necessities for the families. The program also needs volunteers to shop for and wrap gifts.
“We have charge accounts at various stores,” Van Ness said. “If you’re a mother with two girls and want to find a Good News case that has a mother and two girls who need help, you can see what they want. Then we’ll give you the charge card and you go out and get it for them. That’s the family fun in this.”
Robbearts said eight case already have been adopted. She said it’s routine for church groups, businesses and families to adopt a specific case. She said it costs as little as $500 and maybe as much as $1,000 to adopt a case.
“All of the cases get shopped for, but when a case is specially adopted, that’s an opportunity for people to focus their efforts on one family and really make a difference for one family,” Robbearts said.
“It’s a program like no other in Quincy or in the region,” Van Ness said. “For four weeks, we go out and ask area resident to purchase new items, donate cash and help 50 families in need. Anywhere from $50,000 to $75,000 is spent and donated each year. It’s just another reason why Quincy is so special and the people in our area are so special.”
Those who receive help from the program never forget it.
“Good News is exactly what it says,” Jones said. “It is wonderful. It helps people who are at a low point in their life. The things they give you and do for you is unreal. The way they take care of you is amazing.”