image courtesy of the St. Louis Post Dispatch
Thanksgiving allows us to celebrate the gifts of family and fortune, but the week before Thanksgiving offers a different opportunity: the chance to give back. Old Newsboys, a nonprofit charitable project of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, runs a special-edition newspaper each year on the Thursday morning before Thanksgiving. Volunteers take to St. Louis street corners to sell the Old Newsboys Day paper, which contains high school students’ stories on local charities Old Newsboys helps fund. The money raised selling papers flows right back into the charities Old Newsboys supports. And for Northside Community School, a free charter elementary school in North St. Louis City, a little bit of money made all the difference.
Just ask John Grote, Northside Community School executive director. He used Old Newsboys funding to buy binoculars for his students partaking in Birdsleuth, a bird-watching research program through the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology.
“Binoculars are necessary,” Grote said. “We can get fairly close to birds, but if we get too close, as you know, they fly away.”
Northside Community School represents only one of the 139 organizations that already received funds from Old Newsboys this year. Since Duncan Bauman of the Globe-Democrat started Old Newsboys in 1957, the organization has raised more than $16.5 million for all forms of local charities, from Angel’s Arms foster care to Cardinal Ritter Senior Services.
However, the annual Old Newsboys Day special edition did not run in its current format until 2012, when Beth O’Malley, then working with the Suburban Journals, took over production. O’Malley said she modeled the paper off of the 2011 issue, in which high school journalists wrote about issues within their schools.
“I came up with the idea to have high school journalists write about the nonprofits that Old Newsboys Day gives money to,” O’Malley, reader engagement editor, said. “It pushes high school students out of their comfort zones a little bit and helps them learn about how nonprofits help children in the area.”
When she joined the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2014, O’Malley brought the Old Newsboys Day paper with her. Every August, she reaches out to beneficiaries of Old Newsboys and asks if they would like to be covered in the special edition. By early September, O’Malley has her list, and she sends assignments to high school teachers across the area so that their students have time to complete their stories by mid-October. Then, at the beginning of November, O’Malley sends 20-30 stories off to the press for publication in that year’s paper.
“The teachers always know what the students can handle,” O’Malley said. “Some are very hands-off, and others really treat it like a classroom project, and that just varies on what the teacher wants the students to get out of it or how their class is structured, so that’s why I try to leave it up to the teachers. They know their students better.”
Four TKC staffers wrote for this year’s Old Newsboys Day paper, and their stories are available to read below.