Friday, December 20, 2013

The Early Days of Mary Lee Tucker Part 2

On December 3, 1926, ten months after the Mary Lee Tucker's Question Box first began appearing in The Lorain Journal, a major announcement appeared on the front page of the paper (above): the kickoff of the Mary Lee Tucker campaign.

I've transcribed the article (below) for easier reading. The article also sheds some more light on the history of the Mary Lee Tucker program.

Mary Lee Tucker Opens Annual Campaign 
to Fill Ragged Stockings in City

Welfare Organization to Adopt Friendless, Needy 
Families and Lorain-co Home for Chistmas; 
Aid of Readers is Asked


What are you planning to do Christmas?

In every Christmas corner of the globe the birthday anniversary of the Nazarene will be celebrated with merriment and rejoicing.

Holly, mistletoe, Christmas bells, undying symbols of the Yuletide season, will be hung in thousands of homes.

The United States, rolling in luxury, is spending millions on Christmas presents.

But there is another side to the situation.

Here is a Lorain father ill and unable to work for months. Many small children are in the family. One of them, perhaps, is crippled.

Bills pile up, grocery bills, doctor bills, more bills.

Empty cupboards.

Will there be a Christmas in such a home as this? Or will it just be Dec. 25.

With the cooperation of the Journal readers, the Mary Lee Tucker club plans to adopt a number of  needy families this Christmas. They will be selected soon.

It has been several years since the Mary Lee Tucker club was first organized. Hundreds of Lorain people have been helped by it.

Last Christmas, five families were adopted. The response was so favorable that it has been decided to add several more this year.

In addition to this, the club will adopt the Lorain-co Home.

The Mary Lee Tucker organization is asking the talented people in the county to volunteer to give a program in the home during Christmas week.

There will be no duplication in the work of the Mary Lee Tucker club. Adopted families will be entirely supplied through this agency. Other benevolent agencies will be asked to cooperate in this aim.

Every precaution to adopt families containing children, which are in need and worthy will be taken. In the same manner as last year, I will confer with school and authorities, the public health system, school; nurses, the Red Cross and other persons in close touch with poverty and the city. Adoption of the families will be based upon their recommendations.

Here is how you can help in bringing holiday happiness into the lives of friendless and needy Lorain families and to inmates of the county home:

First, money gifts will be received. The funds will be used for the purchase of foods, "sweets," clothing and toys. At the end of this article is a coupon for use in making contributions.

Second, you might buy a Christmas dinner for one of the adopted families. Nothing is quite so heartening to a family on the brink of despair as a variation in food, a hot, steaming Yuletide meal.

Third, canned goods and other staple foods are solicited for use in making up Christmas baskets; however, used clothing is not requested.

Toys or the money with which to buy them are in demand. All over the city are mothers promising their children that Santa Claus will come, altho they know he cannot come unless a miracle happens.

Mary Lee Tucker wants to place the order for toys and other gifts for Lorain's needy children with Santa Claus in Lorain stores. No substitute for Santa will answer the purpose in the heart of a child.

Bring or send your gifts to the Journal office, 209 7th st.

The Mary Lee Tucker organization apparently predated the advice column. As the article above noted, "It has been several years since the Mary Lee Tucker club was first organized." It also stated, "Last Christmas, five families were adopted. The response was so favorable that it has been decided to add several more this year."

Unfortunately, the back issues of The Lorain Journal for December 1925 are not available on microfilm, so I am unable to research the Mary Lee Tucker effort for that Christmas. And I could find no mention of Mary Lee Tucker in the December 1924 pages of the Journal either.

In an oral history posted online (here) on the Lorain Public Library website, longtime Journal staffer Jim Mahoney credits a particular Journal employee with really getting the Mary Lee Tucker program going. Her name was Rhea Soper Eddy and she was Society Editor. According to Mr. Mahoney, "She took it upon herself to write stories so that people would donate cash, and drop off boxes of food and clothing at the Journal. It all worked out so that they could help the needy."

I've recently discovered that Rhea Soper Eddy joined The Lorain Journal staff on November 18, 1924. So it all makes sense that 1925 was probably the first big year that Mary Lee Tucker launched a newspaper campaign, and that previous years were done quietly, and without fanfare.

Irregardless, it's safe to assume that the charitable good done in the name of Mary Lee Tucker dates back to the early 1920s. That's a heck of a streak, and a credit to The Morning Journal that they keep it going year after year.

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