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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Good Fellows raises $2M to help Charlotte families

Businessman David Campbell didn’t just write a check to The Good Fellows Club, he also joined the 107-year-old Charlotte organization that raised a reported $2 million Wednesday to help people make it through life’s rough patches.

“We have to support our community in all that we’re doing. I’m grateful to be a part of an organization that’s doing that,” says the CEO of Boxman Studios, which creates permanent modular construction for retail shops, pop-up restaurants and other projects.

The Good Fellows’ annual Christmas luncheon attracted around 2,000 business and civic leaders to the NASCAR Hall of Fame for food, prompting laughs and a chance to help others. Money collected by “bag boys” at Wednesday’s luncheon will help The Good Fellows pay someone’s rent, keep utilities on or buy food for someone in need year-round.

One of the honorary “bag boys” included Mike Rucker, who starred at defensive end for the Carolina Panthers from 1999 through 2007. The Good Fellows singled him out as perfect for the task because of his past experience with “sacks.” The event also featured the Charlotte Choir School, North Mecklenburg Moravian Brass Choir, the UNC Charlotte String Quartet and Willie Davis, the 2023 winner of Atrium’s Got Talent.

North Mecklenburg Moravian Brass Choir performs at The Good Fellows Club luncheon held at the NASCAR Hall of Fame Crown Ballroom on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.

The Good Fellows’ lone annual fundraiser rakes in big dollars. Last year, The Good Fellows raised $2.2 million. The group has spent millions over the years in small chunks helping Charlotte families facing hard times; $1,600 is the group’s average payment for rental assistance; $500 on average for utilities; $300 in food assistance; $120 in water payment. The group provides one-time assistance, according to its website.

“Good Fellows is providing support to so many families in our community,” says Chris Jackson, CEO of the Charlotte-based Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont, which includes 18 counties. “When you’re able to come together with 2,000 people who are wanting to help other people it’s a tremendous feeling. It’s the spirit of Christmas.”

Jackson joined the organization about seven years ago when he attended the Christmas luncheon as a guest. Todd Collins, founder and CEO of investment firm Red Hill Ventures had never heard of The Good Fellows until he also was invited to the luncheon. Collins is now a board member of the group with more than 1,600 members.

Imagine, he says, a person making $16 an hour and having their hours cut from 40 per week to 35. “That can disrupt their whole life,” he says. “We’re making sure people have utilities, places to live, healthcare.”

The Good Fellows has a push to attract people 40 and younger to join. “The great thing about Charlotte is with all the new business coming to town you have a whole new group of people who want to get involved,” Collins says. Almost 50 Good Fellows have been members of the group for more than 50 years. The oldest member attending Wednesday’s luncheon was 99, another had been a member 66 years.

Graeme Keith III, a development partner at Charlotte-based The Keith Corp., a family-owned commercial real estate firm with $4.5 billion in developments in 39 states, attended his first luncheon in 2011 at the invitation of his grandfather, Graeme Keith Sr., who died in March. Keith credited his grandfather, who helped start the company in 1989 with his son Greg, with teaching him that being part of a business also means giving back to the community.

The younger Keith recalled being at a job site at a jail more than a decade ago and establishing a rapport with an inmate who was about the same age. The man told Keith that his trouble with the law started with getting evicted from his home. Keith says he still wonders if that man’s path could have been altered if he had come in contact with The Good Fellows and received help with a single rent payment.

He encouraged the 75 “young leaders” invited to Wednesday’s luncheon to become involved. “Your generosity and what you’re doing by supporting The Good Fellows Club is changing lives, changing families and changing generations.”

Sponsorships help pay for the luncheon so that 100% of the money collected goes to those in need. Charlotte-based Faison, a private real estate investment firm, was the presenting sponsor, along with dozens of other individuals and businesses.

An all-female group, Good Friends Charlotte, has its Christmas luncheon today at the Charlotte Convention Center. Good Friends has raised $6.2 million since 1987 and helps more than 5,000 people each year, according to its website.

People join The Good Fellows by paying $125 annual membership dues.

 

 

 

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