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BLOOMINGTON — Helping others, especially children, is something Ashleigh Myers of Bloomington learned when she was young.

"It's part of our Christmas," said Myers, who volunteered Saturday at one of several events sponsored by The Pantagraph's Good Fellow Fund.

Myers worked with children from the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal as they helped pick out presents for their parents and caregivers at Kmart in Bloomington.

Myers worked at the Boys & Girls Club when she was in high school and said she likes helping her father, Bill Myers, who coordinates volunteers and transportation for the children for the event. The children — who each received $25 to spend — found watches, clothes, kitchen items, and other things their parents might need or want.

The Good Fellow Fund started 78 years ago when a lone Pantagraph newsroom employee answered a family's plea for help on Christmas Eve. This "good fellow" started a tradition, which grew to include the entire Pantagraph staff and eventually the whole community. It also helps people throughout the year who have immediate needs not being met by existing social service agencies. Various area social service agencies recommend the families who benefit from the programs.

Saturday's events also included the delivery of fruit baskets to seniors and the pick up of Christmas gifts at the newspaper by almost 100 families.

Each of those families received a ham, a fruit basket, a $200 gift certificate from a local grocery store, a blanket and a fruit basket with cheese and sausage.

"Wow," said Bettianne Atkins of Bloomington when she saw the gift certificate.

"This is a surprise," continued Atkins, who lives with her four children and a granddaughter.

Meanwhile, children in the Boys & Girls Club learned lessons about the importance of giving during their Kmart shopping spree.

"We do so much for the children, this is a chance for them to do something for their parents and caregivers," said Evelyn Young, the group's executive director.

"I'm shopping for something to remind my mother of her childhood," said Samantha Brown, a fifth-grade student at Bloomington's Irving Elementary School. She found a doll for her mom and was looking at a set of sports balls for her dad.

Telarrah Billups, 6, got her mom some new silverware and some dishwashing soap to keep it nice. But she wouldn't commit to helping wash the dishes.

One family bought a hat for their Chicago Bears-loving grandfather. Others bought clothes, perfume, and jewelry for their moms.

And it wasn't easy, but with a little encouragement from her big sisters, Samahra Stewart learned about the joy of giving too.

Her family recently moved from Chicago and the 6-year-old was accustomed to hearing that Christmas is for kids.

Samahra had a trembling lip and tears rolled down her cheek when she learned she couldn't buy toys for herself. Her two sisters, Raqiyah, 11, and Amina, 9, and volunteer Patty Penn helped Samahra to understand.

Eventually, Samahra and her sisters pooled their money and bought some jewelry for their mom. It takes "lots of loving," to help the children understand they can't get anything for themselves on this day, said volunteer Bill Myers.


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