[an article inspired by Doug Funke's volunteering with Goodfellows]
by Dave Varga
submitted by Sharon Totzke Gawthrop, SNAG
Public speaking can be intimidating to some people; for others, it's scary to climb the second-story roof to clean out the gutters. But little compares to the rush of adrenaline-tinged fear that comes from straddling the double yellow line at a major inter-section as traffic zings past.
For Dave Wirth Sr., the experience of donning the orange Redford Goodfellows vest, hoisting the shoulder bag of charity newspapers and trying to gather donations is something he approaches with ease. But then, he once spent time on the speedway at Indianapolis, he said.
Wirth was pelted by a frigid rain and snow mix on a recent Friday morning, while stationed at the west corner of Five Mile at Beech Daly, trying to help ensure the Goodfellows raised money to reach their goal of No Child Without A Christmas.
He was among of dozens of volunteers who hit the streets that Friday and Saturday. And, being a veteran of some 15 years with the sale, Wirth said times are tough and many people weren't able to donate as much as other years. Wirth did his part, though, not only by being there, but by passing on the desire to help out. Even as he spent hours in the wet cold Friday, his son, Dave Jr., was stationed on the south corner wearing the bright orange vest of the Goodfellows that day.
Passing on the baton isn't easy. Many volunteer groups like the Goodfellows are increasingly finding it tough to find younger people to take on the challenge of helping others. To make up for it, many schools require some kind of community service requirement. Sometimes people lead by example. Doug Funke, the longtime Observer reporter who passed away this year, found time for many volunteer efforts. A smiling photo of Doug stands on page 7 of this year's Redford Goodfellows Newspaper marking his years of help. "In loving memory of longtime Goodfellow" says the headline over his photo. Doug's untimely passing affected many people who worked with him, more than just in the way we often still quote his goofy sayings and quirky jokes. Apparently, I was one of them, as I felt the urge to bundle up Saturday morning to take to the street.
"How did you hear about us?" a smiling Debbie Trosin asked her new volunteer, as she worked the Goodfellows' command post in the Redford police station Saturday.
After I mentioned working at the Observer, I told her I was there to try to help fill in for Doug.
I was sent to the north corner of Beech Daly and Plymouth, where Tom Dowdy had already staked out the south corner. He braved the chill and wind without gloves (in his pocket, he said) and with a Goodfellows ballcap on his head. He rarely left the middle of the intersection, approaching cars with his newspaper in hand and collecting donations.
On the opposite corner, I figured he was a veteran, so I tried to do the same, stay in the middle lane to approach cars. I could only stay there for a couple of turns of the light at a time before my nerves gave in and I'd flee for the relative safety of the edge of the road. From there, I'd venture into the street to offer papers on a red light.
Some people donated a bill or two, often with a smile. Many gave me odd looks (though it could have been the goofy headwear - a dark blue Michigan skull cap topped by the orange Goodfellows hat). And many, many more either didn't or couldn't give anything. Some of those who scraped a few coins together probably shouldn't have donated.
I did get a certain rush of achievement when several cars would donate from the same stoppage of traffic, or the couple of times when folks pulled out a $5 bill. While straddling that double yellow line, I had one woman slow just enough before her left-turn arrow faded to slip me a dollar. "Trying to make the light," she smiled.
Two days after my first-time experience, I found out that I wasn't alone from our office. Matt Jachman, who sits right next to me five days a week in our Livonia office, spent Saturday afternoon doing the same thing.
Matt's experience was similar to mine. He didn't gather a lot of money, but he also felt a thrill on those times he actually got donations. He also didn't like spending time in the middle of the street. He later moved to a shopping center, where he could make a more personal appeal.
One woman he approached with his pitch, "Redford Goodfellows," replied, "I live in Detroit." Matt answered: "You can still donate."
A few moments later, she appeared from Kroger with a dollar. "I figure a kid's a kid," she said.
As a couple Goodfellow rookies, Matt and I both felt our time on the street was short, but still a bit fulfilling. And we can thank Doug Funke for the inspiration.
One of Doug's favorite payday quotes was to hold up his check and announce to the newsroom: "You know what this is? This is what it's all about . . . this and the hokeypokey."
Sorry, Doug. We know better.
Dave Varga is editor of the Redford Observer and the Livonia Observer. You can reach him at (734) 953-2119 or by e-mail at <email@example.com>.
Doug Funke's obituary is here.