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Generosity saves Cheer Fund

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With less than a week to go before the annual Good Cheer Fund food delivery, organizers feared they would have just enough money to deliver 775 baskets. No extra money would be set aside to help the fund in future years, and some of the savings would have to be used.

But when the fund was in jeopardy, the community stepped forward to ensure its continued success.

A massive influx in donations allowed Good Cheer Fund organizers to comfortably pay for the $38,000 grocery bill needed to fill the food baskets. In addition, it will start next year with a cushion of about $10,000.

“People recognize that this is a Johnson County charity funded entirely by Johnson County people. They understand how important they are to it,” fund chairman Jake Sappenfield said.

The Good Cheer Fund is an annual drive to collect money to provide food for the hungry in Johnson County at Christmastime. The day before Christmas, volunteers distributed 350 baskets throughout Franklin, Bargersville and Trafalgar.

The Greenwood Fraternal Order of Police passed out another 225 baskets in the northern part of the county, while the Edinburgh Fire Department gives out 200 in the southern portion.

Schoolchildren donate canned goods. Donations are used to buy fresh goods such as eggs, milk, bread and a Christmas ham. To fill the 775 baskets given out this year, the bill will approach $38,000, Sappenfield said.

He said he couldn’t pinpoint why donations were down at first. But this was the least amount of giving he had seen in years.

This year, the public had donated 43 percent of what had been given in 2011. As of Dec. 17, the fund had collected $11,385. Organizers had raised more than $15,000 by that time last year, eventually bringing in more than $26,000 by the end of the holiday season.

Organizers were afraid they would have to use the $20,000 in reserves they kept as a back up year to year. That would have severely limited what the fund could deliver in 2013, Sappenfield said.

But the public responded. So far, more than $28,500 has been donated.

Sappenfield said the fund is in good shape heading into the next year.

“We’re not as good as we were last year, but we’re in better position that I thought we’d be,” he said.

All of the baskets were delivered by midday Monday.

Families with little to eat this holiday season were surprised with fresh ham, milk and cheese, and enough canned goods to provide meals for four or five days.

“All the food got out in time, and all of the families chosen received their basket,” Sappenfield said. “Everything went smoothly.”

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