The tradition of collecting and giving lives on with the William Hall Rodgers Basket Fund.
Rodgers was a victim of polio. He was the son of Will Rodgers, who formally named Cleveland’s source for news in the day, the Cleveland Daily Banner.
Throughout nearly a century and since its establishment, the basket fund has provided for families during the Christmas season.
Nearly 1,000 baskets filled with food are given out.
Fifty or so volunteers work to package the baskets.
Although Rodgers was an advocate for helping those in need, it wasn’t until the 1940s when the collection efforts were officially named after him.
Rodgers worked with Associated Charities to help needy families in Bradley County and Cleveland. According to historical accounts, Associate Charities was a forerunner of the United Way.
Rodgers became a victim of polio at an early age but continued to work hard, becoming the editor at the Cleveland Daily Banner.
Todd and Jack Duggan are on the board of directors for the William Hall Rodgers Basket Fund.
Todd Duggan said the Basket Fund is hoping to help up to 980 families.
“We signed up 910 people at the Museum Center at Five Points who will receive baskets this year,” said Todd Duggan.
“We will be distributing them at Tri-State Exhibition Center Dec. 22. Approximately 80 volunteers will help put them together and deliver,” Duggan added.
John Moses joined the effort in 2010 as a board member.
Moses explained why he is involved in the community effort.
“There’s not many of us, but we’ve established our organization now and it will continue on,” he said. “We would love to have any volunteer assist us in three parts of the process.”
A new volunteer could expect to help take applications, pack boxes and then deliver the food. The application process begins every year on either the first or second Monday in November.
Todd Duggan said his father Jack has been busy working in all areas of the effort, including taking applications.
“Based on the number of applications we receive, we’ll set a goal,” he said. “The second stage would be to pack the boxes. We have all volunteers to do that. We actually packed 888 boxes in an hour and 10 minutes,” Moses said.
That was when there were 50 volunteers. The number has grown the past few years regarding volunteers.
“We have always been able to give a basket to every applicant we accepted,” Moses said.
“So far, we’ve been blessed. I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a community as good as this community is,” added Moses.
Duggan added that 100 percent of donations goes directly to the William Hall Rodgers Christmas Basket Fund.
Donations to the William Hall Rodgers Christmas Basket Fund may be sent to First Tennessee Bank, P.O. Box 4880, Cleveland TN 37320-4880.