O. W. Young, an outgoing and gregarious gent, was the Superintendent of Flint’s Buick Body Plant in 1924. “Youngie” loved a good cause, especially when needy children were concerned, so when a couple of the Old Newsboys Goodfellows from Detroit mentioned what they were doing to provide for children at Christmas-- Youngie led the charge, recruiting (some say inspiring—others say drafting) the volunteers necessary to make it happen here in Genesee County.
That first year, the cost per child was about $5.25 and provided toys, clothing, shoes, socks and underwear, a hat and mittens, and a candy bar for 210 children. Born in the factories and embraced by the whole community, the Old Newsboys mission to “Let No Child Be Forgotten” was a call that unified line workers and management, businessmen and craftsmen, firemen and police.
The first year set the mission; the following years improved upon the process.
In year two, the Flint Journal donated the fundraising paper, a generous gift which has continued year after year.
The Junior League, Jaycees, Industrial Business Girls, Needlework Guild of America, Scouts, and numerous other groups joined the team. Soon many of the toys were refurbished sleds, tricycles, and wagons. Dolls were purchased in bulk and dressed by an army of volunteers. New trucks and trains were built from scavenged wood and bits of leftover paint. Hats and mittens were knitted by the crateful. Shoes were furnished by “City Welfare.” Hundreds of dresses were sewn and donated. Due to the community outpouring, the cost per child was reduced significantly so more children could be served and, although many products still required purchase, the paper sale covered the cost.
All but six of the 21 charter members served a term as president. Horace Hatch, Buick Body’s tool crib attendant, was elected the first President. Youngie took his turn in ‘28 and remained a driving force for over 25 years. Art Mooers, the meticulous scribe who preserved much of the organization’s rich history, was the eighth President and hawked papers on a corner well into the 1960s. Ray Brownell was the Secretary and Business Manager through the toughest years—1929 to 1954. He guided the organization through the Great Depression, the Flint Sit-Down Strike, three wars, and the Beecher Tornado of ’53. Many credit Brownell’s steady hand for our mission to continue undaunted.
The Christmas Program is the ONB’s longest running and highest impact program serving Genesee County’s at-risk children from newborn through age 18. It provides them with a sweat suit, two pair of socks and underwear, a knit cap and pair of Thinsulate™ gloves, a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss, and an age appropriate toy or game. All products are new and none have any indication of coming from the Old Newsboys—so the child need never know the gifts weren’t from Santa. The items go home with mom and dad in a sturdy cardboard box that can be wrapped separately for gift giving. Since 1924, children suffering in chronic poverty or who are devastated by the effects of special circumstances like homelessness or sudden job loss can count on the Old Newsboys. In fact, more than 812,000 children have counted on us so far.
Program administration is simple. There is an eight-week open sign up period for the program from early November through December 23rd. To enroll their child, a parent or legal guardian must bring with them to the ONB office a legal Michigan State ID, birth certificates for each child, and proof of income. Like the federal government, the Old Newsboys recognize children to be in-need when coming from a household earning less than 185% of poverty level. To reduce duplication of services, the ONB are in a service pool with the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, and several other similar service providers. Once the child is qualified and duplication is ruled out, it takes just a day or so for the Old Newsboys to process the order and pack a box based on each child’s size and age.
In 2017 alone, 6,179 children received a Christmas box from the Old Newsboys.
To find out if your child qualifies for this program or to find sign-up details, visit our How to Sign Up Your Child area.
A child missing school or play-time because they lack the necessary outerwear for a frigid Michigan winter is both tragic and very easily remedied. The Old Newsboy’s Coat and Shoe program issues referrals to schools across the County to provide new coats and New Balance tennis shoes to children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Once identified by school staff, the child comes to the ONB office to receive a new coat with hat and gloves, or a gift card for shoes, or both. In the 2017/18 school year, the Old Newsboys, with the help of Complete Runner and Payless provided over 550 boys and girls with new coats, shoes or both. Due to limited budget, your child may not be given a coat or pair of shoes even if he or she qualifies. To find out more about this program and the resources available in your school, please contact your child's school counselor or parent liaison.
Referred through the Red Cross or Resource Genesee, the ONB also sponsors an Emergency Box program for families whose precarious existence have been further disrupted by fire, flood, or other catastrophic emergency. Depending upon availability, families receive everything from toothpaste to pajamas. In 2017, four families received a helping hand through this program. This program requires a referral from Resource Genesee or the Red Cross and documentation of emergency (fire report, police report, etc.).
Early on, all positions were voluntary. Most clerical work was staffed out by one of the executive board members. Prisoners were used to collect equipment and inventory to set up for the two-month operational run-- then break it down and store it away for use the following year. By the mid-1960s a paid staff of three administered operations. There are currently four full time paid staff, a handful of seasonal employees, and hundreds of dedicated volunteers.
Since 2008, the ONB has had an enthusiastic and dedicated director who has breathed new life into the organization, its mission, and its programs. Chris Hamilton joined the ONB board in 1985, served as Board President in 1995 and continued as Secretary/ Treasurer until accepting the position of Executive Director. Heather McMullen is the Finance Director and warehouse manager. Lisa Kirk is the Director of Programs and Volunteers.
Find out more about our staff.
In the early years, the operation was administered in the Masonic or Elks Temple, and housed in donated warehouse space. It was the dream of many Old Newsboys for an organizational headquarters-- somewhere to keep the equipment, stock, and records year after year-- a place to meet and plan the following year. This dream came to fruition in 1952. That little building on Lapeer Road was home for over 50 years. The Old Newsboys served hundreds of thousands of children there. However, around 2005, it was grudgingly conceded that general upkeep wasn’t enough. The building itself just wasn’t what it once was. Space was another concern. Even with the Quonset, lean to, and the small warehouse cobbled on in the '80s --there just wasn’t nearly enough space. Parking created another problem putting employees, volunteers, and clients parked along the industrial side-streets at risk. Security also became an increasing issue. It was time to start looking around.
By 2008 the Old Newsboys found a building, 6255 Taylor Drive, located in south Flint. The office area is more than enough space for the current staff and provides room to grow. The warehouse is spacious and includes two balcony areas. The smaller balcony area provides a separate space for our Emergency Box, to ensure gently used or slightly flawed donated products are not accidentally used for the Christmas Program. The larger balcony provides a centralized hub for our coats. Once the shelves and commercial garment conveyor were installed there was no more rooting through pillars of plastic totes to find the appropriate coat for a child, or refusing donations of new shoes or boots due to the lack of storage space. Finally, the intake and packing areas for the Christmas Program are enormous. The packing line is centered in the area to provide stock areas that may be refilled from the rear without disrupting operations. We now have space for multiple intakes and an indoor waiting room. This is our new home.
"Let No Child Be Forgotten" is our motto.
More than 812,000 children have found gifts under the tree from the Old Newsboys.
Meet our Board of Directors.