Picture of seven men and women standing against a wall. The woman in the middle is holding a glass trophy.

The Goodfellows Club of Owensboro was named the winner of the Kentucky Board of Education’s 2021 Kevin C. Brown Strategic Priority Award at its Feb. 9 meeting at the Kentucky School for the Blind. On hand to receive the award were, from left, Owensboro Independent school board chair Melissa Decker, Daviess County Superintendent Matt Robbins, Goodfellows President Elect Stacy Edds-Ellis, Owensboro Independent Superintendent Matthew Constant, Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass, Daviess County board chair Dale Stewart and Kevin C. Brown, former Kentucky Department of Education interim commissioner and current general counsel of Jefferson County.
Photo by Marvin Young, Feb. 9, 2022

The Goodfellows Club of Owensboro, a nonprofit organization that helps meet the needs of students across Daviess County, is the winner of the Kentucky Board of Education’s (KBE’s) 2021 Kevin C. Brown Strategic Priority Award.

The award was presented during the regular KBE meeting at the Kentucky School for the Blind on Feb. 9.

“We are honored to be the recipient of the Kevin C. Brown Award. For over 100 years, the Goodfellows Club has worked to support the physical, social and psychological needs of children in Daviess County; with the belief that no child should be forgotten,” said Stacy Edds-Ellis, president-elect of the Goodfellows Club of Owensboro. “It is an honor to be recognized for work that brings so many community members together to support children.”

For 105 years, the Goodfellows Club of Owensboro has been providing resources and services to assist in meeting the physical, social and psychological needs of disadvantaged school children by providing them with clothing, emergency dental care, medical services and an annual Christmas Party.

While the organization has no full-time staff, its 15 board members and 300 volunteers serve 2,000 children annually.

“Goodfellows is the most selfless, giving organization I’ve ever worked with. Their mission of addressing barriers before students get into the classroom pays dividends each and every day and has done so for decades in our Owensboro community,” said Owensboro Public Schools Superintendent Matthew Constant, who co-nominated the organization for the award with Daviess County Public Schools Superintendent Matt Robbins.

The organization works closely with family and youth resource centers at schools in the area to identify children who need services from the Goodfellows Club. In the past 10 years, Goodfellows has provided approximately $1.5 million in assistance to school children.

“I’ve personally witnessed kids’ lives being changed by doing things we may think are very simple, but putting brand new clothes on the backs of children who would otherwise not have that luxury is something that just can’t be measured,” said Constant.

During the presentation, Edds-Ellis credited the school districts for helping them reach children.

“Without the family resource officers, the counselors, the principals, the teachers, who identify these students that just need a leg up – without them we would just be a bunch of money with nowhere to spend,” she said. “They give their hours outside of the school to shop for these children and hopefully change their life. So, thank you for recognizing us, but thank you to our school partners for making it work.”

Approximately 65% of students in Owensboro Public Schools and approximately 51% of students in Daviess County Public Schools qualify for free and reduced-price meals. Although the Goodfellows Club works throughout the year to meet the needs of children in the community, most of the organization’s funds are used to provide clothes, winter coats and shoes each fall as students head back to school.

In addition to serving children’s basic needs, the Goodfellows Club also hosts an annual Christmas party the Saturday before Christmas. The party serves over 1,000 children and provides each child with a bag of treats and fruit, a Christmas present and plenty of holiday cheer. More than 50 local police and firefighters volunteer at the party.

“The Goodfellows Club has been putting kids first in Daviess County since 1916. By ensuring that the most basic needs of children are met, the Goodfellows Club allows students to reach their greatest potentials in the classroom and in life,” said Robbins.

“They’ve been too modest in the application,” said Kevin C. Brown, the former Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) staff member for whom the award is named. “Just do your own research and you’ll find out. It’s an amazing story, but typical of Owensboro and Daviess County.”

The Goodfellows Club’s funding largely depends on individual donations, which all go directly to services for children.

They collect a majority of their donations during the holiday season each year through the “Roll Call” daily fundraising campaign where citizens pledge donations through the local newspaper. Funds also are raised through an annual Soup Day for Kids, tennis tournament and collaborations with organizations such as the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden and the Owensboro Choral Society’s performance of Handel’s “Messiah.” The Goodfellows Club also seeks out philanthropic organizations for grant funding opportunities.

“We appreciate the manner in which children and families are treated as their needs are met discreetly and respectfully, and the exemplary fiscal management of the organization as they continue their commitment of ensuring that 100% of all donations go directly to benefit children,” said Robbins.

The award is named for Brown, general counsel for Jefferson County Public Schools, who has held several prominent roles at KDE. Most recently he served as interim commissioner of education from December 2019 to September 2020.

The annual award recognizes a person, group, organization, district, school or postsecondary institution who, through policy, practice, fundraising or philanthropy, and despite any challenges, has made it a top priority to provide for the well-being of Kentucky students and to provide them with high-quality educational experiences.