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Year after year, longtime radio personality Paul W. Smith emcees the annual Goodfellows breakfast that helps raise money to brighten Christmas for underprivileged children.

But on Friday morning, Smith, the popular morning host of "The Paul W. Smith Show" on WJR-AM (760), was the one feted at the 30th annual Old Newsboys Goodfellow Fund of Detroit event downtown at the TCF Center.

"Honestly, it's an amazingly humbling experience," said Smith just before the breakfast. "I've been here just as the emcee for many, many years, and I've had a front-row seat, usually sitting right next to the person who has won the award, and it's been an incredible list of people."

Now Smith becomes one of the honorees whose picture is etched on coffee mugs for attendees to take home for an organization that has popularized its "No kiddie without a Christmas" slogan.

Others in attendance were past recipients, elected officials and community leaders such as Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer. Taking over for Smith's emcee honor was Fox 2 News Anchor Huel Perkins.

"It is humbling to say the least to be included in any way, shape or form in this wonderful group of people that have meant so much to Detroit and the cause," Smith said. "Because of a breakfast like this, we are going to help more kids with more gift baskets than ever before."

Marshall Hunt, president of Goodfellows, said 30,000 packages are delivered to children every year as part of the program. Smith, he said, "not only has emceed our breakfast but has sponsored a golf classic that raises a lot of money for children" and supports a number of charities.

"He's just a great individual and a great supporter of the Detroit community," Hunt said of Smith. "So we wanted to honor him after he's helped us give out recognition to many community leaders over the years. We found its time to honor Paul."

Founded in 1914, the Detroit Goodfellows is the original and oldest Goodfellows organization, according to its records. The nonprofit was started after James J. Brady, who was director of the Internal Revenue Service in Detroit, began the charity after seeing a cartoon of a impoverished child in The Detroit News.

Hundreds of members each year pass out gift boxes to kids aged 4-13 in Detroit, Highland Park, River Rouge, Hamtramck and Highland Park with items that include clothing, toys, books, games and candy. The Detroit Police Department help in the distribution of the gifts.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, who has been honored herself in the past, said "Paul deserves this honor."

"He's been at this since he came back to Detroit," she said. "We're bringing community together and we're raising dollars so that our kids can have a Christmas. It's easy to forget how many people have a hard time. Paul is probably one of the people who deserves this more than anybody with his big heart and his caring."

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans called Smith "a very deserving person" of the honor for an event that blesses many kids on Christmas.

"It's so many kids I've talked to who were poor kids and Goodfellows made their Christmas," Evans said. "It's something you always look forward to and a real tradition in Detroit. Paul has carried a lot of water for Goodfellows."

lfleming@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2620

Twitter:@leonardnfleming

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