KEWANEE, Ill. — Teresa Bryner is the secretary and treasurer of the Good Fellow's Christmas Basket Club, a not-for-profit organization in Kewanee, Illinois. They put together baskets filled with grocery items to give to families in need to help with holiday meals.
She has known the president, Ambron Buchanan, for a while and knows he is the most deserving of the Pay It Forward award.
“He has touched so many people's lives. Thousands and thousands of families from Kewanee that have received baskets," said Bryner.
For over 50 years, Buchanan has coordinated hundreds of baskets to go out to families in Kewanee. Of course, he has so much help from a supportive community. He has a great board of directors with Good Fellow's, donations from local citizens, and students in the Kewanee school district all working together to make this possible every year.
James W. Whisker founded Good Fellow's and started a basket fund in 1960. In 1969, Whisker had a daughter in Mr. Buchanan's biology class. His homeroom was collecting canned goods for the Key Club.
“The back of my classroom looked like a mountain of canned goods," said Buchanan.
When Whisker went to his classroom to discuss his daughter's grade, he was immediately drawn to those canned goods.
"The man walked in and said 'I’m here to talk about'… and he mentioned his daughter's name. He looked at the back of my room and said 'what are you gonna do with all the canned goods?'” said Buchanan.
The rest is history.
Since that year, the Key Club at Kewanee High School partnered up with Good Fellow's to gather donations of canned goods. Students across the whole school district also volunteer to help put together these baskets full of food to go out to families.
“This year, in Kewanee, gave out 756 baskets. I did a little math last night and this touched about 14% of our population” said Buchanan. The highest number of baskets was in 2011 with 1065. The money over the years spent on buying food and putting these together has increased from $5,000 in the early 1990s to over $35,000 in recent years.
When we asked Buchanan why he has done this for so many years, his answer was simple.
“The big reason is of course to help people… we’re revealing our other reason… We’re helping kids understand service” said Buchanan.
See previous Pay It Forward award winners: