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Good Fellows Club luncheon raises $1 million for Charlotte’s working poor

The Good Fellows gather for their 102nd Christmas Luncheon

The Good Fellows Club held their 102nd Christmas Luncheon at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The event raises money for local families in emergency need throughout the year, primarily with rent and utility payments to keep them from living on the streets.
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The Good Fellows Club held their 102nd Christmas Luncheon at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The event raises money for local families in emergency need throughout the year, primarily with rent and utility payments to keep them from living on the streets.

Ushering in Charlotte’s Christmas season of giving, the venerable all-male Good Fellows Club raised $1 million for Charlotte’s working poor through its 102nd annual luncheon Wednesday.

The club raised $1,000 per second — or about $300,000 — just by collecting checks and cash from the Good Fellows members and guests who packed the Crown Ballroom at the NASCAR Hall of Fame/Charlotte Convention Center, Good Fellows President Mac Everett told The Charlotte Observer.

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A collector goes between tables gathering donations during the 102nd annual Good Fellows Club Christmas Luncheon in the Crown Ballroom of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday, December 12, 2018. The event raises money for local families in emergency need throughout the year, primarily with rent and utility payments to keep them from living on the streets. Founded in 1917, the Good Fellows Club has about 1,700 members in the greater Charlotte area, men who’ve raised $3.6 million in the past five. The club assisted 2,479 families in 2017. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Including advance donations, the club raised $987,748 to pay rent and utility bills for families facing eviction or who have been evicted, Everett told the Observer. Then, hours after the event, an anonymous donor contributed more money to put the total raised over $1 million, he said.

Families in emergency need receive financial help from Good Fellows through such local nonprofits as Crisis Assistance Ministry and the Urban Ministry Center.

The amount raised easily topped last year’s $836,000 mark and represents the highest amount ever raised except for in 2016, when special gifts were made to mark the club’s centennial, according to Everett. That year, the club collected about $1.3 million, he said.

At Wednesday’s luncheon, the club raised at least $300,000 in what the Observer estimated to be about 300 seconds — or 5 minutes — when cash and checks were collected from members and guests at their tables.

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Malcolm E. Everett, III, center, President, The Good Fellows Club, gets a hug from Jay Everett of Calvary Chapel Church, in Chattanooga, TN, near the conclusion of the 102nd annual Good Fellows Club Christmas Luncheon in the Crown Ballroom of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday, December 12, 2018. The event raises money for local families in emergency need throughout the year, primarily with rent and utility payments to keep them from living on the streets. Founded in 1917, the Good Fellows Club has about 1,700 members in the greater Charlotte area, men who’ve raised $3.6 million in the past five. The club assisted 2,479 families in 2017. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

That figure would have been higher, but more members donated in advance of the luncheon than in years past, Everett said. The overall amount raised also includes sponsorships and memorial and honorarium gifts, Everett said.

“Today is the moment we can be ‘all in’ to make this one of the greatest days in Charlotte,” Good Fellows member Kendall Alley, Wells Fargo’s Charlotte region president, told the more than 1,700 members and guests at the luncheon. Wells Fargo was the presenting sponsor.

Founded in 1917 by a group of men at Charlotte’s Second Presbyterian Church, the Good Fellows Club has raised $3.6 million in the past five years alone. The club helped 2,479 families in 2017, with 100 percent of proceeds from the lunch assisting those in need.

Good Fellows set a club record for dues-paying members this year at over 1,800, Everett told the gathering. The $100-a-year dues plus sponsorships go to covering the cost of the luncheon, Everett said.

Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones told the gathering how Good Fellows helped a single mother of four and longtime teacher’s assistant who was evicted from her home because she couldn’t pay the bills. On Tuesday, thanks to Good Fellows, she got the key to a new apartment, Jones said.

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Marcus Jones, Charlotte City Manager, talks about a family being helped by The Good Fellows Club during the 102nd annual Good Fellows Club Christmas Luncheon in the Crown Ballroom of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday, December 12, 2018. The event raises money for local families in emergency need throughout the year, primarily with rent and utility payments to keep them from living on the streets. Founded in 1917, the Good Fellows Club has about 1,700 members in the greater Charlotte area, men who’ve raised $3.6 million in the past five. The club assisted 2,479 families in 2017. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Marcus Smith, president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, told how Good Fellows similarly helped a man who works at a grocery store where Smith shops pay his family’s bills and avoid eviction.

What Good Fellows did had “a life-changing impact on him and his family,” Smith said.

Good Friends Charlotte, an all-women’s organization that similarly raises money for families in need, will hold its 32nd annual luncheon at 11:45 a.m. Thursday in the Crown Ballroom.

Good Friends “raised $412,482 through last year’s luncheon, including $275,082 in personal donations from luncheon attendees,” The Charlotte Observer reported in a Dec. 14, 2017, article.


Correction

This story has been updated to reflect the correct number of people in attendance. There were about 1,700 people at the lunch.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.


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