Annual food campaign gets own dose of good cheer

Throughout Johnson County, baskets containing a ham, potatoes and eggs helped give 800 families a feast this past Christmas.

The annual Good Cheer Fund delivery also provided bread, canned soup and boxed pasta for lunches and dinners over the course of the holiday season.

For the 93rd straight year, the fund helped the county’s neediest at Christmastime. Now, campaign officials say, it’s time to start planning for the coming year.

Organizers of the Good Cheer Fund are assessing this year’s distribution while looking forward to next Christmas. After providing baskets for 25 more households than last year, the goal is to increase community donations and involvement while figuring out how to best serve families in need.

“We’ll definitely look at what went where and how we can improve,” said Jake Sappenfield, chairman of the Good Cheer Fund. “I want to check out that grocery list, see how we can get food for cheaper and what we can add to better serve families.”

Tracking the areas with the most need helps Sappenfield plan for deliveries next year. Applications to the fund were up in the Greenwood and Center Grove areas, reflecting the increasing populations in those parts of the counties.

Meanwhile, the number of families from Franklin and Whiteland reaching out for help went down.

“At the end, we weren’t trying too hard to get rid of baskets,” Sappenfield said.

The Good Cheer Fund is an annual effort to collect money to provide food for the hungry in Johnson County. In the days before Christmas, volunteers distributed 350 baskets throughout Franklin, Bargersville and Trafalgar. The Johnson County Fraternal Order of Police passed out 250 in the northern part of the county, and the Edinburgh Fire Department passed out 200 in the southern portion.

Donations from the community are used to buy fresh goods, such as eggs, milk, bread and a Christmas ham, while canned goods collected by local schools supplement the baskets.

Those donations from the community helped not only feed people this Christmas but set the fund up comfortably for 2015. As of Friday, $29,299 had been donated to the Good Cheer Fund. That’s an increase from $27,446 brought in during 2013.

That foundation, which will help pay for half of the grocery purchases for the next delivery at the end of the year, gives organizers a solid base to work from moving forward. Sappenfield had set a goal of having about $20,000 in the account for next year.

“It wasn’t an overwhelming amount of donations, but we definitely had enough to make this happen, and we have enough funds left over to secure it for next year,” Sappenfield said.

With that seed money, Good Cheer Fund organizers are discussing ways to improve participation and keep the tradition in place.

One of the biggest concerns is the number of schools collecting canned vegetables, soup, peanut butter and other nonperishable food items. Students traditionally have been the largest contributor to the food baskets, donating close to 35,000 items in November and December.

But fewer schools are taking part in canned food drives for the fund. That means money that normally would go for fresh groceries, such as milk and cheese, was used to buy the nonperishable items.

Sappenfield plans to talk with school leaders throughout the county this year, keeping the Good Cheer Fund on administrators’ minds.

“We want to make sure we keep educating people on what we’re doing,” Sappenfield said. “We’re feeding the kids who attend those schools over the holiday season, and I want to make sure people understand that.”

Good Cheer Fund Roundup

What: Good Cheer Fund, an annual effort to pass out holiday food baskets to the needy throughout Johnson County. Baskets included canned foods and fresh items such as a ham or chicken, eggs, milk and cheese.

How many delivered: 800 baskets

Distribution: 350 baskets went to the Franklin, Trafalgar and Bargersville areas; 250 went to Greenwood and the northern part of the county; and 200 went to the Edinburgh area.

Donations as of Friday: $29,299

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.