The Fraternal Order of Eagles #376 recently awarded John Freeman with the inaugural “For What It’s Worth People Helping People Award.”
Freeman is the founder of the John Freeman Foundation and John Freeman’s “Whatever You Think It’s Worth” Annual Christmas Breakfast.
Freeman said it all started in 1977 with a customer appreciation breakfast at his service station on Sandusky Street.
“It was my way of showing my appreciation to my customers, but they wanted to give me money,” he said. “The first year there were maybe 10 or 15 people, and it just kept growing. The most I ever had at the station was 150 people.”
Freeman said he didn’t want to keep the money, so he donated it to those in need in Delaware. He said he donated it to nursing homes or organizations that did things for children or bought books for kids.
“The money collected at the breakfast is still donated to charities in Delaware,” he said. “The breakfast is held the second Saturday of December every year. The second Saturday of December was easier to remember.”
Freeman estimates that in five hours, he and 40 to 50 volunteers feed 900 to a 1,000 people on every second Saturday of December. He said it takes four to five days to set up everything for the annual breakfast.
“Everybody just enjoys doing it,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve purchased our own equipment and we’re pretty self-sufficient.”
Freeman said after he closed the service station, the location for the breakfast was held at a couple of different places, but for the past 20 years it has been held at the Hardware Exchange, 141 S. Sandusky St. He said all the equipment for the breakfast is stored upstairs at the hardware store.
Ken Fink of the Fraternal Order of Eagles #376 said the award combined the order’s motto of “People Helping People” with the name of Freeman’s breakfast. He said the award will be given annually to different people in Delaware to recognize their contributions to the needy.
“When I think about this group of guys who get together in the upstairs of the hardware store (and) move out all the inventory, I don’t even know where they put it,” said City of Delaware Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle. “All the money raised helps folks in Delaware. The committee gets together and decides just who to help, whether its someone who needs heat, cancer children, treatments, medicines, or someone just down on their luck. The public never knows.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.