Pioneers Club disbands after 90 years

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — For 90 years the Pioneers Club gave children a merrier Christmas.

But on Nov. 14, a handful of Pioneer members disbanded the group that raised money to give needy children presents in time for Christmas since 1922. Pioneers President Leonard Moore, 84 of Dearborn, said the organization not only promoted a good cause, but great memories.

“It was a good group,” Moore said. “It wasn’t a big name group. It got the doggone thing going.”

Organization members used to hit the streets of Dearborn near Christmastime selling special-edition newspapers – published by the Dearborn Times Herald – to raise money to buy Christmas gifts.

The Pioneers’ slogan, “No Child Without a Christmas,” wasn’t just a saying to its members, Moore said.

Some notable members included former Dearborn mayors John O’ Reilly Sr. and Mayor Orville Hubbard and state Rep. Gino Polidori (D-Dearborn), among numerous others.

Moore, who joined the group in the late 1960s, said he joined because Hubbard encouraged him in his own way.

“Hubbard didn’t suggest it but we understood each other,” Moore said. “The fact that he was active in it told me all I needed to know. Hubbard wasn’t a man to waste his time on second-rate material.”

Moore said the membership dwindled because people slowly stopped joining.

“It is a different era,” Moore said. “We decided we had become a social club, just meeting together and discussing the old times. We decided we can no longer function and we are not active enough to continue. It is time to disband.”

In the non-profit service organization’s heyday, it had about 60 members, including people from the police and fire departments.

Moore said in the late 1990s the Pioneers slowed down paper sales on the streets because of the increasing potential danger of drivers hitting the members.

On Monday the Pioneers planned to donate a $1,000 check to the non-profit organization Dearborn Goodfellows, a group originally made up of lawyers and accountants who did bookkeeping for the Pioneers during their Christmas sales, Moore said.

“Now the Goodfellows are the big boys,” Moore said. “Within a while the Goodfellows expanded and broke off and they are it. We are proud of the Goodfellows.”

According to Dearborn Goodfellows’ website, the organization has assisted needy Dearborn children since the 1920s and became established as The Good Cheer club in 1922; the organization became incorporated as the Dearborn Goodfellows in 1938.

Moore said the Pioneers – and many other service-based organizations — started because of Henry Ford’s influence.

“Henry Ford was a direct influence without being directly involved,” Moore said. “He believed none of the children should be left without a toy for Christmas and some clothing.”