A riveting Rosie wins Goodfellows' doll contest

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

My fellow judges had not brushed up on World War II history, given that they're only 9 and 10 years old. But they knew what looked cool and looked like fun, and that was a Rosie the Riveter doll.

Personally, I liked the doll with the garland, hula skirt and painted toenails. In more than a decade of being dazzled by the entries in the annual Old Newsboys' Goodfellow Fund doll-dressing competition, however, I have learned to defer to the experts.

Amaria Clark, left, of Redford and Emily Stanczak of Auburn Hills, along with The Detroit News’ Neal Rubin, selected the three winners in the Detroit Goodfellows’ annual doll-dressing competition.

Emily Stanczak of Auburn Hills and Amaria Clark of Redford Township preferred Rosie, with her denim work clothes, red bandana and matching socks. So volunteer dresser Theresa Hunt's creation was awarded first prize Monday in a contest that exists for two important reasons:

No. 1: To brighten the Christmases of 4- to 9-year-old girls from income-impaired families; and No. 2: to remind people like me how much creative talent there is in the world.

The Goodfellows' motto is "No kiddie without a Christmas," and they've been living up to it since 1914. They'll distribute 33,000 gift boxes this holiday season to children in Detroit, Hamtramck, Highland Park, River Rouge and Harper Woods, and 9,000 of the boxes will contain dolls.

The dolls leave Santa's offshore workshop wearing only a white brief, socks and Mary Janes. It's up to good souls like Hunt of Belleville, runner-up Denise Stevenson-Cash of Rose Township and third-place winner Janice Selden of Kalamazoo to make or purchase ensembles so that the recipients might be properly enchanted.

All 150 or so finalists will be available for admiring through Nov. 28 in the front window of the Comerica building at 411 W. Lafayette in Detroit.

There's a witch, complete with broom; the judges were impressed but didn't think it would be fun to play with. Two professional wrestlers, one with red-and-white boots to match the rest of her outfit and one with a mask. Two brides. A baker, a doctor, a Lions cheerleader, a bumblebee.

Judges Emily Stanczak, left, 9, of Auburn Hills and Amaria Clark, 10, of Redford Township carefully consider their choices from an array of fancifully dressed dolls during the annual judging of the Goodfellows doll-dressing competition at Comerica Bank in downtown Detroit on Monday.

A Miss Michigan has a bouquet of roses. A scientist has a purple microscope.

The detail is astonishing, year after year. As for Amaria, who owns five Barbies, the key is "the hair." And Emily says that "sometimes, casual is a good thing."

So you never know. But it's taken on faith that the boxes will get delivered and that the Goodfellows will find a way to pay for them.

This year's budget is $1.25 million, says Sari Klok-Schneider, and as usual for mid-November,  there's a wide gap between that and what's been raised. She's the Goodfellows' part-time executive director and the only employee, and she'll gratefully welcome donations at or P.O. Box 44444, Detroit, MI 48224.

The Goodfellows did a focus group at a Detroit school this year and learned a few things, she says.

Older kids, it turned out, wanted the same sweatpants with gathered ankles that the younger kids receive. Girls wanted zip-up sweatshirts, not pullovers, because a pullover can undo a half hour's work on a hairstyle.

These are some of the finalists selected by the judges.

But dolls are timeless, if no longer clothes-less.

Hunt, the winner, has been a volunteer seamstress with her mother since she was a teenager.  Her mother, Carmen Myers of Belleville, had been a Goodfellows recipient when she was a girl. 

“We were poor, too,” says Hunt, but they bought material and dressed a doll and now they oversee a group of friends and family that dresses three dozen of them.

Hunt, 38, made Rosie’s jumpsuit out of two doll-sized denim shirts. For the bandana, she used material from a larger headscarf that helped win her first prize in a Rosie look-alike contest at the Yankee Air Museum in Ypsilanti.

“I was hoping some little girl will recognize her,” Hunt says.

Chances are she won’t — but she’ll understand the most important thing, which is that somebody cared.

Twitter: @nealrubin_dn