Good Ole Boy Foundation: Community unity, network lead to good deeds

GOBF shopping 2

Good Ole Boy Foundation shopping sprees help bring holiday cheer to needy children and families.

SUSSEX COUNTY — With Christmas approaching, Good Ole Boy Foundation members were as busy as  Santa’s little elves, helping to deliver holiday cheer to needy children and families.

As of Dec. 16, the count was 100 families.

GOBF delivering chocolatyes to nurses

Katy Wharton delivers chocolates to a nurse in a random act of kindness.

“Every day we get more families,” said Josh Wharton, a founding member of the grassroots organization. “I’m guessing it will be probably close to double that at the time it is all said and done.”

This past Sunday, Santa Claus made a special delivery – courtesy of Good Ole Boy Foundation connections.

“We had a lady come to us – she tagged me on Facebook – that there is a girl that is 23 years old. She is deaf. She has never been able to sign language to Santa Claus. She has always seen Santa and she loves the holidays,” Mr. Wharton said. “Just by making a couple calls and putting some things out there we are going to make this happen. So for the first time – she is 23 years old – she is going to be able to “sign” her wish list to Santa Claus.”

“We found one in New Jersey – a Santa that does sign language,” said Gumboro resident Shane Payne, another GOBF member. “It was somebody that saw a posting on Facebook … and BAM!, it all became a reality.”

Since its inception three years ago, the Good Ole Boy Foundation has helped countless families and individuals, with the help of a caring community and a vast network of supporters with connections.

GOBF peel pull KC Conaway John Deere tractor

Good Ole Boy Foundation member K.C. Conaway raises an item up for bid at the organization’s dinner/auction, held in collaboration with the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department.

The Good Ole Boy Foundation Facebook site has more than 5,600 “Likes.” Social media, cell phones and word of mouth are what make things tick.

None of the handful of founding members are millionaires. Neither are any of the several dozen individuals in the foundation’s active network. The GOBF holds two major annual fundraisers – the Sweethearts Ball and the Pull’n, Peel’n and Pick’n – but for the most part community response facilitates good deeds.

“Our core – we have five board members – that is really not the brains and the heart behind our foundation. There are all of our wives and we’ve got some friends; we’ve probably got a network of 25 of us that keeps this foundation going,” said Mr. Wharton, a Delaware Electric Cooperative employee who also farms. “It is made up of blue collar individuals that go to work every day and work hard. They work hard for their money. They are Sussex County folks and they love helping people. If we were all on our own we couldn’t cover the amount that we do when we are together. Meaning, if we all give a little we can help a lot. And a lot of the times there are things that we can do for people that don’t cost a dime.”

“Basically our mission is we come along side of families that come against unexpected hardships – whether it be medical issues, house fires or whether it be Christmas time, just trying to assist families at Christmas,” said GOBF member K.C. Conaway, a DNREC Fish & Wildlife mosquito control employee from Laurel. “And really, our main priority is to preserve the spirit of a child. We look at the best interest of the child. That has kind of been our No. 1 goal: Are there kids involved?”

Seeds for the GOBF were planted in late fall of 2012.

GOBF Peel Pull Shawn Ward racing brian townsend and Josh Wharton

Josh Wharton orchestrates bidding at the Good Ole Boy Foundation’s Peel’n, Pull’n, Pick’n fundraiser held in conjunction with the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department.

“There was a little girl from Seaford and she had a medical issue. We wanted just to rally some people together to provide her a Christmas. That’s how it started,” said Mr. Wharton. “When we came home from the hospital the night before Thanksgiving in 2012 with our youngest son, when we got home we found out about this little girl and we set up a Facebook page. I told my wife, ‘Let’s try this,’ and from there it grew. It was one family, and then two families. Before we knew it we did 25 families our first year. That was all in like six weeks or whatever.”

“That is what I think is so awesome about the organization, because it wasn’t founded by usually successful businessmen or people in political office or a large corporation,” said GOBF member Anne Donaway of Millsboro. “The guys that founded it were just hard-working, everyday guys. They recognize the need of others, knowing that it could be any one of them that would be in that spot and need that helping hand. I’ve always done small parts. All of us do. You do your own small little part, and then it ends up being this huge thing. We put all of our thoughts together and visions together and it becomes this chain reaction.”

In many instances, the GOBF is the switchboard dispatcher for community unity.

“The Good Ole Boys, they simply bring the public to see a story and that creates an impact. It empowers the community to help,” said Ms. Donaway. “That is what’s so cool and so special about the Good Ole Boy Foundation. They just bring the story to light.”

“In our community, we have founded a powerful tool and there are great people in the surrounding area that are willing to help,” said Mr. Conaway. “They just need to know the need brought to their attention. We’ve had people – grandmothers raising kids where the washing machine goes – and this one particular grandmother was battling cancer and raising three small children. Within a matter of 15 minutes I believe we had about five to 10 washing machines donated the organization.”

“It allows people to do incredible things. We keep the people anonymous,” added Mr. Conaway. “It never fails. It amazes how quick they are to react. That is the beautiful thing about the Good Ole Boy Foundation.”

“They (community members) trust us by their donations and we try to make them proud by finding deserving families,” said Mr. Wharton.

Area businesses have pitched in to help in collecting Christmas gifts.

“The local businesses who love the fact that we are giving back, without a blink of the eye will completely donate, and say ‘Here you go. Do as you wish. I know it is going to be given locally and to a good cause,’” said Ms. Donaway. “There are so many businesses I don’t even think I could name how many help and how many individuals help. There are hundreds. They come to rescue quite quickly.”

“And of the 25 people that are involved in the heart of our foundation, not one person receives any compensation for anything. One hundred percent of our money goes back into the community,” said Mr. Wharton.

Some good deeds seem simple, like buying lunch for a military veteran, purchasing coffee or hot chocolate for total strangers or delivering chocolates to nurses.

On occasion, the GOBF can help make dreams come true.

GOBF tractor parade

A massive tractor parade highlights an event held last summer for a 5-year-old Missouri boy with cancer. His wish was to drive a tractor, pet a shark and go to the beach – all of which were made possible through Good Ole Boy Foundation connections.

This past August, Liam Myrick, a terminally-ill 5-year-old boy from Missouri, had not one, not two but all three of his wishes come true.

“He wanted to drive a tractor, pet a shark and go to the beach. We made it all happen,” said Mr. Payne.

Little Liam was all smiles as he sat at the wheel of a huge John Deere, part of large processor of farm equipment at a farm near Gumboro witnessed by hundreds of supporters.

“There was probably 60 or 70 pieces of equipment out there that day, everything from a little lawn mower to big tractors,” Mr. Payne said.

Foundation members are quick to point out it is a concerted, community effort.

“We can’t fix everything, but what we can do is rally the community up, and come up with these drop-off locations and get all the essentials that these people need in a short amount of time. We do it through Facebook, phone calls and stuff like that,” said Mr. Wharton.

Response to a fire that destroyed a Millsboro family’s home is a shining example.

“Twenty-four hours after their house burned down we had hundreds of people coming out to give their donations and stuff they had – and it wasn’t really monetary,” said Mr. Wharton. “They needed essentials around the house. They needed clothing, they needed this and that; little things that you just don’t think about. And within 24 hours the Bare family was back on their feet ready to go. Of course their house was a total loss but all of their essentials were covered. Examples like that, it doesn’t cost anything. It is just rallying the community.”

Sussex County, founders say, is why the foundation succeeds.

shane with dog

Shane Payne holds a chocolate lab puppy that drew plenty of attention and affection at one of the Good Ole Boy Foundation’s major fundraisers in 2015.

“It just goes to show the heart of Sussex County, that people right here where we live love helping other people – and we’re the engine that does that,” said Mr. Wharton.

“It didn’t shock me at all because we live in the greatest community in the United States as far as I am concerned,” Mr. Payne said. “Sussex County is without a doubt the greatest community.”

Major 2016 fundraisers

The GOBF’s Sweethearts Ball is held around Valentine’s Day,

“We partner up with Baywood. They give us a great deal, a great price. The girls go out and get their hair all done up. It gives us a night, just us adults, that we can get all dolled-up and go hang out for a great cause.”

Pull’n, Peel’n and Pick’n, a mega-fundraiser that benefited both the Good Ole Boy Foundation and Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department, was held this past March with plans for a second event in 2016.

Passing the torch

Organizers hope to someday pass the torch.

GOBF kids on shopping spree

The younger generation is the future of the Good Ole Boy Foundation. Pictured at a recent shopping spree,, Kamryn Payne, Nick Wharton, Ryan Beard, Caden Showard, Alexa Ellis, Mya Donaway, Addison Weaver, Dax Donaway and Kyler Weaver. In the background is Tammy Beard.

“I know that this sounds crazy and you always have to dream big, but if we are going to change the world we have got to start with the young people of America. And that’s right here at home with our own kids,” said Mr. Wharton. “Like tonight, we are going out shopping tonight for a second time and we’re taking our kids. We want them to know that Christmas is not all about receiving, but it’s more about helping other people in need. We want them to get involved to make this hopefully last for years and years to come, because at some point we are going to have to stop; 50 years from now we are not going to be in shape for this.”

“Now we are incorporating our children,” said Ms. Donaway.

“One thing the Good Ole Boy Foundation has given us is tools to be able to impact our kids – to leave a legacy for our kids,” said Mr. Conaway. “We are gradually involving more and more kids, now that we are kind of getting our feet on the ground we try to involve kids with many of the opportunities that rise up within the community. We want to pass it down, and eventually have the younger generation take over the Good Ole Boy Foundation.”

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