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Published: Thursday, 12/7/2006

'Newsboys' look to add members to group

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
In this photo from about 1950, Old Newsboys Goodfellow Association members hawk newsletters to raise money to buy needed items for children suffering from neglect or poverty.
In this photo from about 1950, Old Newsboys Goodfellow Association members hawk newsletters to raise money to buy needed items for children suffering from neglect or poverty.
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The newspaper boxes on downtown street corners sit in territory once belonging to Bill Gliszcinski and his fellow paper-hawking newsboys of the Great Depression era.

Back then, Mr. Gliszcinski recalled, the youths were expected to buy whatever newspapers they couldn't sell. "If you didn't sell them, you had to eat them," the 91-year-old said.

The newsboy era eventually gave way to mechanization, and now those coin-operated boxes are facing an electronic threat: the Internet.

While the newspaper business moves to evolve with the times, so is one of its long-standing charities, the Old Newsboys Goodfellow Association.

Organized in 1929, the association that began as a group of former newsboys is gearing up for its 77th annual charity drive tomorrow. Papers were sold in 76 of those years, but apples were sold in one of those years because of a newsprint shortage.

The nearly 600 association members, with help from other volunteers, will fan out to area businesses and shopping centers to hand out Goodfellows newsletters in exchange for monetary donations to buy coats, shoes, and emergency clothing for needy children.

Last year's paper sale raised $220,000, and the newsboys are hoping to raise at least $10,000 more this year, Tedd Long, the group's vice president, said.

"The money you provide is going to go directly to the purchase of coats and shoes for children in the community," Mr. Long said.

The charity's general goal has remained steady through the years: to donate 100 percent of proceeds to assist children and their families.

However, in recent years, the organization has made efforts to infuse its ranks with new members - and not only men who once peddled papers.

There were almost 1,000 newsboys members as recently as the late 1980s, but numbers have declined as members have died.

"Our membership has gotten older and older, so we're in dire need of younger members and women," said Ron Shnider, a past president and current sales development manager for The Blade. "Membership is open to anyone who has an interest in improving the lives of children and families."

Along with clothing and shoes, the donations also provide families with emergency food vouchers, contribute to community programs such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo that benefit schoolchildren, and fund nine $5,000 college scholarships for local high school seniors from low-income families.

Because all donations go to charity, the association relies on members' dues to pay various administrative costs. A year's membership is $25, and lifetime memberships are available for $300 to those under 65 and $200 for those who are older.

Mr. Long estimates that fewer than half of the members are under 50, and only about 10 percent are women. Just a handful of members are in their 20s.

"But I think we're starting to make a change," he said.

In August, the association brought back a round-robin preseason football scrimmage involving area high school teams that it started in 1939 but later discontinued.

The newsboys added a recruitment element in September to their annual tailgate party at a University of Toledo home football game.

Both events are ways that increase the association's visibility and help attract younger members, said Tim Reny, chairman of the tailgating event.

"Any event we have anymore, we have a table with our cards for people to sign up," he said.

Denise Kamcza, who handles membership, said she has noticed a slight uptick in women joining in the last six years or so.

"To be honest most of them are probably spouses [of male members]," Ms. Kamcza said. "But we are getting more."

Many of the newer members have never worked in the newspaper business.

Greg Loeb, 38, a sale representative, said he joined to make life easier for children and families in need.

"I got into it because I wanted to help the people who needed it the most," he said.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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