12/19/04 — Smiles abound at ESF party

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Smiles abound at ESF party

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on December 19, 2004 2:01 AM

A two-foot-tall child emerged Saturday morning from the movie theater on Berkeley Boulevard toting a "Triple Action Playset" that was as big as he was.

A net Christmas stocking chock full of goodies was slung across his shoulder. Though his load might have been a little heavy, his face was beaming with happiness.

The youngster was just one of the more than 600 children who participated in the 93rd annual Empty Stocking Fund Christmas Party. The party was held Saturday at United Artists Theater on Berkeley Boulevard thanks to the $35,798 that has been raised. Each child was given a toy, clothes and a stocking filled with goodies.

Children lined up to see Santa, while volunteers helped the youngsters pick out their gifts and get their clothes.

One volunteer straightened his shoulders, saying that he was "getting a little tired now."

Besides receiving the gifts, the kids were also treated to free Pepsi from the Pepsi Corp. and live entertainment from Rex, the Almost Amazing Clown, and his sidekick, Trouble.

Two other clowns, Millie and Doodlebug, provided holiday face painting.

The sounds of Christmas music echoed from one theater as the kids sang Christmas karaoke.

The Empty Stocking Fund is the county's oldest charity; it was started in 1912. As the Christmas season approached, members of the Goldsboro Woman's Club became concerned over the dismal prospects facing some of the community's less fortunate children. For many, there would be no Santa Claus.

The club's members shared their concerns with Col. Joe Robinson, founder and editor of the Daily Argus. Together they made a commitment: The Daily Argus would raise the money and the Woman's Club members would see to it that the "stockings" of the needy children would be filled at Christmas.

To raise the money, the News-Argus publishes the names and amounts of each contributor or the names of those in whose honor the contributions are made.

With the cooperation of the Woman's Club, the Continental Society, the Salvation Army and the Wayne County public schools, hundreds of children are screened for selection, and each is presented a complete outfit of clothing, a toy of his choice and a big stocking filled with goodies.

The children receive written invitations to the party, which is held at United Artists Theater on Berkeley Boulevard.

On the night before the party, members of the Goldsboro Elks Lodge and the Goldsboro Women's Club help fill the big stockings that are presented personally by Santa Claus.

Gifts are distributed at the party by members of the Continental Society and the Woman's Club. News-Argus employees and other volunteers from the community pitch in to help at the party.

In addition, students from the International Students Club from Wayne Community College were on hand to translate. The club is composed of students who come from different countries and helps them assimilate to the United States culture.

Club President Michael Kwon said the 16 members come from Mexico, Korea, Cuba, Greece and Puerto Rico.

But perhaps the most important role was played by the hundreds of people who made the Empty Stocking parties possible by their contributions. These represent a broad spectrum of the community -- from successful business owners to youngsters in elementary schools.