Jennifer Wells

Newly Appointed Goodfellows President Shares
Her Devotion To The Charitable Organization

Story by Alley L. Biniarz
Photography by Nicki Kay Creative

Jennifer Wells feels honoured to be the first female President of Windsor Goodfellows in its 111-year history, but she wants to be recognized for more than that.

“I hope that at the end of my term, it’s my dedication to Goodfellows that people remember, not my gender. There are so many talented men and women that belong to the club and it’s their acts of kindness and generosity of spirit through volunteerism that I will spend my time working towards,” she says. 

Jennifer first volunteered with the charitable organization after working at Families First Funeral Home. The owners, Brian and Mary Lynn Parent, were incredibly dedicated to community involvement and had been supporters of the Goodfellows Breakfast Program which serves and supports over 3,000 children daily. They encouraged Jennifer to dig a little deeper with her volunteerism and eventually she was helping run the Goodfellow’s Golf Tournament as well. 

“Being involved in the community has been an important part of my life,” Jennifer says about having roots in volunteerism and recounts her upbringing where she watched her hardworking parents’ devotion to their community. Her father, now a retired police officer, volunteered for various charities, coached basketball for 20 years and taught VIP in the local grade schools; leading by example, he instilled a sense of responsibility to their community in Jennifer. 

New Goodfellows President Jennifer Wells. Photo by Nicki Kay Creative.

When first appointed Vice President of the organization, Jennifer didn’t take on the duties lightly. Since she also accepted her role as General Manager at Family First Funeral Homes, she wanted to be sure she would have the time to dedicate to the organization, especially since it would eventually lead to being President. The entire Goodfellows team knew that Jennifer would do the position justice and gathered their support to her in heaps, showcasing that infamous Goodfellows devotion. “As soon as I started thinking about it, so many volunteers and board members reached out and said they were here to help. Since day one, I knew I could call on any of the board members and volunteers to ask for help and they would be there,” Jennifer adds. 

With zero funding from the government and no formal employees, it’s the team that makes up the backbone of the organization. Goodfellows works based on community service and Jennifer jokes that they survive on the 5% admin costs and the other 95% is made up of the blood, sweat and tears of volunteers. 

The charitable organization has four major programs, one of which is their year-round food bank open on Tuesdays and Fridays 12 months of the year. During that time, they give out a food box consisting of both non-perishable and perishable items. The value of the box is around $150 and includes everything from peanut butter, bread, eggs, carrots, potatoes, beef or chicken and milk.

“The last few years The Goodfellows have worked on improving the offerings in the food box that now include many fresh options,” Jennifer says about the evolution of the box. “In our box today, we also support multiculturalism and new Canadians who had given us feedback on some items they weren’t able to use and we answered back with this,” she adds about the incorporation of specific types of lentils and Halal chicken. 

Once again listening to their community’s needs, the Lunch Bag Program was born of the pandemic and serves clients who are experiencing homelessness. Goodfellows has made up the lunch bags to incorporate disposable knives and forks and accessible foods that don’t require a can opener, a microwave or oven and are able to serve over 150 people monthly. 

Along with food donations, Goodfellows also hosts a Boots and Shoes Program where they provide new footwear to children in grade eight and under. Goodfellows’ former manager Colleen Renaud, who experienced Goodfellows as a child, knew the importance of providing a pair of individually chosen shoes for a child to feel special and normal. This program allows parents to go into Karen’s for Kids once a year to access runners or boots for their children for the school year and is just a small way to support the parents who are doing their best and the kids who are having a difficult enough time. 

Goodfellows spreading good cheer and the spirit of Christmas. Photo courtesy Windsor Goodfellows.

“Colleen Renaud was the GM for over 40 years and was a part of the organization until her passing,” Jennifer adds. “She was one of the reasons I was involved; she could attract people, teach you about humanity and why we need to do these things. She would tell us that there’s somebody somewhere who needs your help and it’s your turn to help them.” 

Finally, Goodfellows hosts their annual Paper Drive and Christmas Box donations, which is what the organization is best known for. Around the Holidays, the volunteers collect funds for the Christmas box which is the regular food box amped up with goodies for the Christmas season, including a gift card to a local grocery store. This way parents can pick up their chosen Holiday dinner items, treats for their family or just a little something extra to make this time special. 

“The whole purpose behind the Drive was the message, ‘no child without a Christmas.’ That’s the reason people support the Paper Drive, to help make sure that nobody has an empty plate and no family is left behind for the Holidays,” Jennifer says about, once again, making families feel normal, loved and special during the Christmas season. “The reason we give now is to make sure that when we’re all enjoying our Holiday, we know in our hearts that we’ve helped someone in another family. It’s the feeling of ‘settledness’ and knowing that you contributed to that in some small way; that you did something to make someone else’s life even better for a moment. That’s why we’re all here.” 

Jennifer wants to continue being a tool for the organization and to look back and know that she has done a good job and helped Goodfellows over her two-year Presidency. After that, she says she looks forward to seeing what is sparked from her term. “The nice part is in two years, there will be an opportunity for new ideas, a new turnover and a fresh look at the issues but also the opportunities that can keep moving Goodfellows forward.”

Add comment