With just a few days to go before Christmas, a group of volunteers meet before dawn to get ready for the Good Cheer Fund delivery.
They have breakfast, catch up with one another and receive their assignments for the day. Once they’ve eaten, they visit schools throughout the county, picking up a small mountain of canned food that will provide holiday meals for the needy.
Hugh “Kenny” Webb, Mick Vornheim and Daryl Cochrane have been part of that group for years. The volunteers will meet again this year, but for Vornheim and Cochrane, the routine won’t be the same.
This will be the first time in more than 10 years the three friends haven’t assisted with the Good Cheer Fund together. Webb, who died in October at age 73, was a longtime volunteer for the cause, doing everything from picking up canned goods at the schools to putting together the food baskets for the needy.
Vornheim and Cochran will carry on the tradition this year, though it will be with a touch of sadness.
“Kenny was just a great guy. He was one of my best friends,” Vornheim said. “I miss him a lot.”
Webb grew up in Franklin and returned to his hometown after serving for 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. He worked at Arvin North American Automotive Industries, starting as an industrial engineer and working his way up to manager of the Franklin press operations.
He was a life member of the American Legion and belonged to the Franklin Elks Lodge. His participation in the Good Cheer Fund dates back decades.
“He was one of those guys that they could do whatever you need. You count on them. Kenny was one of those folks,” said Jake Sappenfield, chairman of the Good Cheer Fund. “Running this organization, it’s very helpful to have people you can count on and who are flexible enough to go do whatever. That’s a quality that will be missed and is hard to replace.”
Vornheim and Cochrane started volunteering with the Good Cheer Fund more than a decade ago when Webb asked him for help. They were in charge of dropping off collection baskets at one of the schools that would be conducting canned food drives in support of the fund.
Before volunteers could put together the baskets for needy families, they would go back and collect all of the food that had been donated.
“We felt like we were doing something for the community and doing something for people who needed help,” Vornheim said. “It was neat to see what the kids brought in. Those baskets got heavy.”
Webb would come to his friends’ houses, picking each one up in a truck before heading to Ann’s Restaurant in Franklin
Webb wasn’t in the best health when the group met in 2013 for their annual delivery. He was getting a little weak and couldn’t carry as many of the baskets as he used to be able to, Cochrane said.
But his sense of humor and friendliness were as strong as ever. That will be what Vornheim and Cochrane miss this year.
“It’ll be strange not having him there,” Cochrane said. “You couldn’t beat him as a guy. He was very thoughtful.”