The new chairman of the board for Charity Newsies has been a member for 35 years, but he's been part of the nonprofit organization for practically his entire life.
When he was just a little boy, Mike McGarity of the Northwest Side said his father, also a member of the group dedicated to distributing new clothing to local schoolchildren in need, would take him along on the fundraising drives the first Saturday in December.
"He would hit all the bars in Flytown and the area where he grew up," McGarity said. "I watched my dad and his devotion to it. He was a devout Newsie until he passed away."
Flytown was the nickname more than a century ago for a poorer neighborhood near what is today the Short North.
Mike McGarity followed in his father's footsteps in joining Charity Newsies, as did two of his brothers. McGarity's daughter is a member, as are two nephews and a brother-in-law.
"The family's pretty heavily involved," he admitted.
McGarity is in the fourth year of a climb to the chairmanship of the board for the homegrown charity founded in 1906 when two businessmen saw a skimpily dressed lad shivering in the cold of a December day as he tried to hawk newspapers.
They took pity on the boy, sold his papers for him and went on to found Charity Newsies to provide new clothing to children like that little newspaper seller.
McGarity was second vice president, drive chairman/first vice president and president in the years leading up to being named to his current post.
The other recently announced new leaders of the organization, which has helped more than 500,000 children in its long history, are Chuck Rundio IV, president; Shari Carroll, drive chairwoman and first vice president; Stephen Chandler, assistant drive chairman and second vice president; and Laura Brennan, Bill Karn and Lee Tucker, trustees.
McGarity, Rundio, Carroll and Chandler will serve one-year terms. The terms for trustees are three years.
"What we're about is clothing kids," McGarity said. "But we do more than that.
"We're trying to empower the kids, we're trying to keep them in school, and one of the ways we try to do that is give them new clothes and shoes each year."
In spite of how long Charity Newsies has been around, McGarity said many people aren't that familiar with the organization or mistakenly presume the clothing given to needy children is used.
It's not. It's always new, fitted and provided to them at the Charity Newsies headquarters on Indianola Avenue in Clintonville, where McGarity grew up.
"When they leave, we hope that they'll be ready to go to school and continue their education," the board chairman said.
McGarity said he and other members are always willing to educate people about Charity Newsies.
"We're constantly going out and talking to the public," he said.
"We go out and talk to organizations, corporations, small business, communities ... we're more than happy to go out and talk to them and explain what we do," McGarity said.
"We're like any other charity: We've been faced with some tough times and we're fighting our way through them, but we've been fortunate because of our 107-year-old legacy in the community, people are willing to work with us," he said.
"We invite the community to come up and see us, see who we are. The more people who come visit us, the more enlightened the community becomes about us."